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Explicit Vocabulary Instruction

​Over the past twelve months, teachers at Brisbane Central, have been focussing their teaching on enhancing, extending and improving students’ vocabularies through Explicit Vocabulary Instruction. Our research into vocabulary instruction has revealed that “best practice”, includes:
•       The use of methods that are  appropriate to the age and ability of the reader
•       Ensuring students learn vocabulary  incidentally in the context of storybook reading, or in listening to others
•       Pre-teaching  words before reading a text also is helpful.
•       Techniques such as task restructuring and repeated exposure (including having the student encounter words in various contexts) appear to enhance vocabulary development.
•       Vocabulary should be taught both directly and indirectly.
•       Repetition and multiple exposures to vocabulary items are important.
•       Learning in rich contexts, incidental learning, and use of computer technology all enhance the acquisition of vocabulary.
•       Dependence on a single vocabulary instruction method will not result in optimal learning.
•       Effective vocabulary instruction does not just rely on definitions.
•       Students must represent their knowledge of words in linguistic and nonlinguistic ways.
•       Effective vocabulary instruction involves the gradual shaping of word meanings through multiple exposures.
•       Teaching word parts enhances students’ understanding of terms.
•       Different types of words require different types of instruction.
•       Students should discuss the terms they are learning.
•       Students should play with words.
•       Instruction should focus on terms that have a high probability of enhancing academic success.
This week, our teachers reviewed the Brisbane Central State School Vocabulary Framework (a document which sets out  how we teach students vocabulary across the school), and are examining ways that they can improve their vocabulary teaching. Our teacher-aides have also had focussed training in Explicit Vocabulary Instruction, and now have “Vocabulary Kits” that they can use when working with small groups of students. One day a week of teacher-aide time is dedicated to working with students to pre-teach the vocabulary for the week across the school.  All classes are expected to have dedicated “word walls” up in their rooms .  All these initiatives demonstrate how important improving our students’ vocabularies is!!!
My research into Explicit Vocabulary Instruction has also influenced and changed the way that I support the learning of my children at home . So what can parents do at home to improve their children’s vocabularies? When you come across an unfamiliar word (when watching TV, reading a book), you can:
·         Tell them the meaning of the word using  child-friendly language- “Grumpy means when you are feeling angry or annoyed about something”.
·         Use a sentence that illustrates what the word means , “I felt really grumpy when I dropped my ice-cream on the floor”, then ask your child to use the word in their own sentence.
·         Ask your child to repeat the new word so they understand  how it is pronounced
·         Talk about related words – grumpy, grumpier, grumpiest.
·         Revisit the word again and again – it can take up to 30 exposures to a new word before a child is able to include it in their vocabularies.  Research suggests that students need to learn 8-10 new words a week.
Talk to your child’s teacher today about they are teaching vocabulary  and how you can further support vocabulary acquisition at home.