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The #1 BEST Reading Vocabulary Lesson

The Best Vocabulary Lesson You Should Teach Every Day

What do you do to help improve your students' knowledge and understanding of vocabulary? Do you take a systematic approach by exposing students to a contrived list of words and definitions? Do you take a more incidental approach through teaching "word-awareness" and rich discussion? Either way, you've probably learned all about the components to good vocabulary instruction. This year I improved one specific area of my reading instruction and saw my students' vocabulary scores significantly increase!
The Best Vocabulary Lesson You Should Teach Every Day

According to Linda Diamond and Linda Gutlohn in their article, "Teaching Vocabulary," on the site, Reading Rockets, there are four main components to good vocabulary instruction:

  1. wide or extensive independent reading to expand word knowledge
  2. instruction in specific words to enhance comprehension of texts containing those words
  3. instruction in independent word-learning strategies, and
  4. word consciousness and word-play activities to motivate and enhance learning

My guess is that most of us work to get these strategies right. We build comprehensive and engaging classroom libraries to foster a love of reading, grow independent readers, and expand our students' reading "appetites." When using a mentor text we will take time to teach vocabulary words from the story and we present vocabulary from other content areas on a daily basis. We teach word-learning strategies and use word-play in our instruction so that students have skills to tackle unknown words when they are reading. In short, we get all the explicit part right. 

But, my fear is that when we focus on explicit vocabulary instruction we miss big opportunities for authentic, organic vocabulary instruction that lie right under our noses!

The single BEST reading vocabulary lesson I give every day is during my teacher read-aloud time. If you are not using your teacher read aloud as an integral part of your vocabulary instruction then you are missing out! (Read more about how I select chapter books for read alouds HERE!)
When we read aloud we should be conscious of the instructional opportunities that lie within the pages. When we MODEL word-attack strategies, THINK ALOUD how we use context clues, and INVOLVE students in the process of comprehending we open a world of words to our students with which they might not otherwise engage.

Check out this excerpt from my most recent read aloud, Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers...
"Mary Poppins pulled the perambulator up with a jerk, in case Andrew, in his wild flight, should upset it and the twins." 
Me: Hmm... here's a tricky word I've never seen before. How should I try to solve it?
Students: Break it in parts and read the parts!
Me: Right. Per-am-bu-la-tor Wow, I still have no idea what this word is! What should I do if I'm still not sure?
Students: Read the rest of the sentence!
Me: Great idea. Rereads sentence. Well, now I'm thinking about what this thing could be. The text says the twins are in the perambulator so it must be some kind of carrier; so definitely a noun. And Mary Poppins and the kids are out on a walk... Hmm. Any ideas?
Students: Maybe it's a stroller!
Me: Oh! Well, that would make sense, wouldn't it?
Students: Yes, since the twins are babies and they can't walk.
Me: To be sure, I'm going to write this word down and we will look it up later.

WOW! In just one 3 minute interaction we reviewed all 4 steps to good vocabulary instruction with an organic authenticity that my students are MUCH MORE LIKELY to remember and (even better) APPLY to new and unknown vocabulary words within their own reading experiences. 

The proof came just a few days later...
Teacher: Who would like to share something they wrote in their journal about their weekend?
Student: I had a soccer game. This picture shows my mom pushing my baby sister in the perambulator.

Are YOU taking advantage of authentic vocabulary teaching moments when you read aloud? I can honestly say that when I amped up my real-aloud instruction my students' vocabulary scores improved... not one child in my second grade class
(aside from two students learning English as their second language) 
shows a deficit in vocabulary knowledge.

I want to hear from you! 
What book are you reading aloud to your class RIGHT NOW?
Let me know in the comments below!

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