Encounters with Words: Vocabulary Instruction
Vocabulary instruction is an important aspect of reading comprehension in literature as well as the other content areas. Students need more than dictionary skills to be effective in figuring out the meaning of words. They must be interested in learning words and excited about it. Students should be offered an opportunity to select the words they will learn about. This will engage the students and make them a part of the learning process. The learning environment should foster word consciousness and surrounded students with words. Words walls offer a place to display the vocabulary students are learning. They can add words and relate words with ones they previously learned. They should have an environment that encourages the use of words and the inquiry into word meanings. Students can extend this learning to words they encounter at home and outside of the school environment. Words are complicated to understand because they often have more than one meaning, and their meanings are interrelated. Therefore, word learning is incremental and teachers must link new words with familiar words. Vocabulary instruction can be explicit and involve read alouds and word play. Read alouds allow for repeated exposure to words and give the students a context to help define the word. Students should have a variety of experiences with words through different genres of books and activities that allow students to use and investigate words. Students can discuss words, pick their own words to study, and play with words. Students should be exposed to spellings of words and have an opportunity to decode and pronounce words. While writing, students should check their word choice. Teachers must also assess students’ word knowledge by utilizing a range of assessments. Assessments should be authentic and use words in context rather than as individualized words. The contexts must also be varied since words have more than one meaning. Word knowledge must also be assessed over time since learning is incremental. In order to teach vocabulary, teachers must have an understanding of the complexity of word meanings. They need to excite their students and make them aware of the importance of vocabulary. The learning environment must enable students to encounter words in a variety of contexts and be able to explore words they are interested in. There are many strategies for teaching vocabulary that provide authentic learning opportunities. This will allow students to apply strategies to unknown words they encounter while reading or in their other content classes. Teachers must also assess students’ word knowledge because it plays an important role in comprehension. Words play an integral role in life and learning making vocabulary instruction vital.