Vocabulary – Which words and how to teach them?

Choosing which words to teach and which to leave out would be the hardest decision to make when it comes to teaching vocabulary. Looking back on my blogs, I notice that I have been attempting to teach vocabulary rigorously and explicitly ever since I first heard Paul speak about it at a couple of EAL/D network meetings at Fairfield in 2014, yet still I struggle with these choices. The words that I choose are interesting … but they are not always the most useful.

I am a long way from mastering the art of teaching vocabulary well, which is why I love attending and re-attending professional development which reminds me of the pedagogical principles and provides me with sharper tools for my toolbox.

One of the many useful handouts with research based practical suggestions.

So here I find myself again as a very willing and privileged participant of the ‘Designing Learning for Vocabulary Development’ project for 2019, being taught by experts like Dr Paul Dufficy (@CHEAPedagogy), Jo Rossbridge, Margaret Turnbull, Dr Gill Pennington and Dr Jenny Hammond as well as our leader, mentor and trusty Refugee Support Leader, Cindy Valdez-Adams. (@TESOLoz) This is the third year that Cindy has been running this project across several schools in the Fairfield, Cowpasture Rd district and beyond. Every year new schools are added to the training as well as schools like mine whose aim is to train up new classroom teachers to embed the practices within the school, and where the EAL/D teachers are learning to be mentors. We are now in our third year of the project.

Each year I listen, learn and realise that there is quite a bit that I have to improve upon. Here are some of the areas from our first learning session that I have been reminded to work on:

  • Allow students to choose some words rather than the words always being my choice, so that they have a participant role in their learning choices.
  • When speaking, use the easy words alongside the harder words more often to integrate the targeted vocabulary for the students. This is called ‘glossing’.
  • When choosing words, look at their importance and utility. Look at the word’s instructional potential; can it be manipulated in different ways? Can it be transferred into new situations and applied in new contexts?
  • Start sharing my new words, the ones that I am learning, with the students so that my enthusiasm for learning new words is evident to them.
  • Make my teaching of vocabulary more targeted, explicit and intensive.

Similarly to last year, this project will go across the whole year … and, similarly, I’m still learning to mentor our classroom teachers in this project … another skill to learn – handover!

The main idea!

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