EDUDEAF: Vocabulary Development

Key Words: Instructional Strategies, Language, K-12

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Date: Sat, 20 Oct 1956 15:13:56 +0100
Reply-To: A Practical Discussion List Regarding Deaf Education
Sender: A Practical Discussion List Regarding Deaf Education
Subject: vocabulary development
To: Multiple recipients of list EDUDEAF

Jeanne,

During my year as an itinerant in Austin, I ran into many of the same problems. The resource and itinerant teachers who come to Boys Town with their indepth eval students say the same thing. Vocabulary is at the base of so many of the academic, and even social, problems of mainstreamed students. A few things that have helped me to think about when faced with the issue:

1. Vocabulary does not exist in a vaccuum. The reason we need vocabulary is to understand and convey meanings--content--ideas. We all know this. The implication, however, is that we also can't work on vocabulary in a vaccuum. It sounds like you are actually doing this by helping the student "catch up." In other words, the vocabulary he/she needs is continually involved in your work with this student. That is an excellent first step. IMHO, students generalize better when they meet the same content in at least two places, from at least two different people.

2. Lack of vocabulary does not ALWAYS create a problem. I have learned to go in and watch the subjects the teachers and student report about. I take a lot of notes, not on the words needed, but on the times when the student seems to need vocabulary to understand, discuss, or respond, and on the times when there seems to be enough support (predictable worksheets, a vocabulary referent on the board or overhead that grows as the teacher presents, etc) for the student to acquire the vocabulary needed for that task. That way, I can understand WHEN and WHY particular types of vocabulary are causing problems, and WHAT kinds of problems they are causing.

3. Whether I intervene in class or pull out, I then have some priority goals to work on, and I ask the teacher for the materials from that particular content. If the trouble comes on tests, I ask for previous or sample tests so that I can create questions on current content that use the troublesome vocabulary in the same way that the teacher will use it. If the trouble is reading the text, I borrow a text, and work on building a prediction of what kinds of information will be encountered in the different parts (introduction, summary, graphs and tables, sidebars, captions, etc). The vocabulary that caused the problems is then explainable in THE MOST APPROPRIATE context. Several purposes get accomplished at once.

4. One of those purposes, of course, is the teaching of skills. You know the drill--"We have been talking about covered wagons. In this picture in your social studies book is a covered wagon. Look at the caption. There is no 'covered wagon' written there, but there is another name for one. Read the caption and see if you can tell which word is another name for 'covered wagon.' Right! Conestoga wagon. How did you know. Very good, they both have the word wagon for a second word." Since itinerants don't have time to teach all the vocabulary, and the students wouldn't remember it if we did (out of context), teaching vocabulary analysis and acquisition skills as one studies important content, is fairly efficient.

5. But the final point, that has only really become evident to me in the last year or so, since we started our metacognitive based tutoring program, is that sometimes we teach skills and strategies but don't let the student in on it. Many of my students have trouble distancing themselves from the content enough to talk about learning itself. A good example is a beginning 7th grader, very verbally competent when discussing content, who had trouble when I asked him how he could make a passage he had written more interesting for his audience. He thought I wanted him to use the word interesting in his sentence. So , I set up a hypothetical third person in the room, and related the question to that person as the audience "He hasn't read your baseball story. He doesn't know you. Do you think he will understand who L--- is? What do you need to tell him, so he will be interested?" That was fine. The student was then able to talk about the mechanics of writing rather than the topic of the story. However, I would have stopped there a year ago. This time, however, I went on using the hypothetical person reference a few more times, and then stopped to explain:

"This person, and other people who read your work are called the audience. You need to think about your audience before you write."

And on the next four stories, we thought about the audience first. Now, he can talk about varying style for different audiences without my bringing it up, and it shows in his writing.

Vocabulary works the same way. Once the new skill or strategy has been used successfully a few times with teacher/tutor mediation, it is time to "make the skill transparent" to the student, so that the student can use it again independently. Marie Clay does this with first graders in Reading Recovery, at an age appropriate level, and it works quite well, apparently.

Malinda Eccarius
meccariu@unlinfo.unl.edu

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Date: Wed, 9 Oct 1996 09:06:56 -0400
Reply-To: A Practical Discussion List Regarding Deaf Education
Sender: A Practical Discussion List Regarding Deaf Education
Subject: Re: vocabulary development
To: Multiple recipients of list EDUDEAF

Malinda Eccarius wrote:

> (snips) IMHO, students generalize better when they meet the same content in at least two places, from at least two different people.

Absolutely! One of our consultants uses an example in workshops: he lived in another country for several years, and struggled to learn the language. The French professor told the class that in order to master a piece of vocabulary (or concept, or language structure or whatever) you must be exposed to it in a meaningful way about 200 times ! Since many deaf/hh kids don't have ready access to the language around them because of the hearing loss, they have far fewer of those meaningful exposures than their hearing classmates. Ergo, the more people that talk with them about vocab & topics coming up in class, the better. It needn't be (maybe shouldn't be) a formal teaching situation - a conversation, a drawing or diagram, or whatever will enable the student to think 'hmm, that's familiar - Ms X mentioned it Wednesday' adds to the richness of the experience the kid has with that information. I would also suggest that as many different people as possible be included in this, including parents. There will be more information to generalize from from if there are more different styles of talking about any vocab or concept.The notion that we need so many exposures for mastery also raises questions for me about the efficacy of the pull-out model as usually practiced. The rest of your post addressed that really well. I printed it to share with my consultant colleagues, to add into our "mental mix" when preparing teacher workshops. Thanks!

Robin
henne@moose.ncia.net

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Date: Wed, 9 Oct 1996 16:16:42 -0400
Reply-To: A Practical Discussion List Regarding Deaf Education
Sender: A Practical Discussion List Regarding Deaf Education
Subject: Re: vocabulary development
To: Multiple recipients of list EDUDEAF

For those of you teaching the elementary crowd, I'd recommend the Magic School Bus books, Video tapes (they're all closed captioned) and CD Roms (don't know if they're in Mac format). Alex learned so much vocabulary and concepts from this series because it takes science and translates it into a fun learning experience in a print-rich environment. He has such an innate understanding of the scientific concepts because the CD Roms give you a chance to actually live the experience. Also, because the Video follows the story that the book presents and the CDRom enhances that, you've got the exact same information presented three different ways all reinforcing each other. The more they see, read, play, the more the vocabulary and concepts are reinforced. You should see how easily Alex (five years old) discusses the Solar system and its planets, the internal workings of the body, sound waves, etc. I buy every new Magic School bus item that comes out and even my daughter who will soon be twelve loves them...and she's a real intellectual. They've now come up with hands on activity kits that correlate with these stories, but in my opinion, they're very weak and expensive for what you get. You can easily do better on your own.

Something great that our school gym teacher did was take an obstacle course and design it like the workings of the parts of the heart. She labeled the parts and you were crawling through tunnels that represented the aorta, jumping through hoops that represented various valves, etc. It was such a great hands-on activity that could be done for any part of the body or any simple machine.

Just sharing ideas!
Linda S

Uploaded by: Jessica Soltesz/Kent State University/Deaf Education Major