A reoccurring issue that has caught my attention was how academic vocabulary builds student achievement. Many of us are in touch with this, but recently, it appears to have reached a paramount in how teachers of all subject areas will need to incorporate powerful strategies for content acquisition through reading and writing. Many of the articles mentioned the same key phrases: complexity of text, rigor, higher standards, and how the stakes are being raised in classrooms across curriculums. What was once believed to only have to take place in an English class—now must also take place in a Physical Education, Math, and/or Science classes. I guess the question is how do we now expect teachers, who may not have taught writing and reading before, to suddenly become experts without the proper training? Will teachers receive the necessary training through increased professional development? Will they be allowed to take time off from work to collaborate more? Basically, with budget cuts, etc., how will teachers receive the training needed to meet the demands of such items as the Common Core State Standards?
As an English teacher in a large school district, we recently adopted the Common Core State Standards to become more aligned with those of the lower 48. Many of our students are transient students due to the military; therefore, students move in and out of the district on an ongoing basis. Aligning them with the content from the lower 48 will certainly help their transition take place much smoother, and students are able to continue or excel in their next educational setting. We as educators know the link between a solid vocabulary foundation and comprehension are major factors in student’s preparedness for career or college. However, how do we foster a community across the disciplines to see this happen?
According to Robert Marzano and Debra Pickering’s (2005) Building Academic Vocabulary, there is a six-step process:
1. Teacher’s presents the term in student-friendly language (including descriptions, examples, and nonlinguistic representations of the term.
2. Students restate the term in their own words (linking the new word to known experiences and backgrounds.
3. Students represent the term in graphic form (reinforcing and deepening understanding through process in a second modality.
4. Students use the term in other contexts (deepening meaning by applying the term in new situations, through writing or conversation.
5. Students discuss the terms with peers (building understanding as a class, augmenting this knowledge with new discoveries about the word.
6. Vocabulary games give students more exposure to the term (serving as continued review in ways that engage multiple modalities for learning). (p. 3)
The list above can appear overwhelming if not just down right frightening for a teacher, who may not have taught vocabulary before, but it does allow for the continued dialogue of how to incorporate more vocabulary in other disciplines such as Art, Math, or Science. It also provides a quick rubric for all teachers to follow in their classroom and projects a uniformed front on how vocabulary acquisition can take place in a school. Only time will tell if the practices above are beneficial to the student, educator, and community. However, paralleling reading and writing in all subject-areas will certainly aid the student in increasing their knowledge base, and when followed through the different facets of the school environment, will provide a continued support of learning in all academic disciplines.
Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2005). Building academic vocabulary: Teacher’s manual. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.