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#ILAchat: Vocabulary Instruction

By Wesley Ford
 | Mar 12, 2019

Vocab_promo-profile_300When I hear the term vocabulary instruction, I think of the small, orange paperback that was a part of my stack of English language arts texts in high school. This undersized book was full of words I didn’t know and couldn’t pronounce. Every week, my fellow classmates and I would flip the page and embark on a series of activities: use a dictionary to find the definition of these words, fill-in-the-blank cloze sentences, and write-your-own sentence using the newly discovered word.

Despite a vivid recollection of the work itself, I don’t know how many vocab words I retained. These words were complex for the sake of being complex. They were presented without context. I was an avid reader, a writer, an editor for the school’s creative writing magazine, and I had little use for the words I was forced to memorize beyond the weekly test.

What’s the state of vocabulary instruction today? I’m curious to see how much has changed in the world of vocabulary instruction during our next #ILAchat, which will occur on Thursday, March 14, at 8:00 p.m. ET. I’m sure vocabulary instruction has come a long way thanks to the latest research and innovative educators who know how to make vocabulary instruction an engaging, authentic component of daily instruction.

We have a host of guest experts this week, who will guide our discussion and provide a research foundation. This month’s guests include the following:

Amanda Goodwin is an associate professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Her research interests include studying factors that support language and literacy for adolescents, with a key interest in vocabulary, morphology, and digital reading. She is the coeditor of Reading Research Quarterly, ILA’s premier research journal. She is well published in top-tier research journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Scientific Studies of Reading, and Journal of Educational Psychology, and also practitioner journals such as The Reading Teacher and Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. Importantly, Goodwin is a former teacher, grounding her research in practice.

Pam Koutrakos is an educational consultant with Gravity Goldberg, LLC, where she works with pre-K–8 students, teachers, and administrators. She recently published Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K–6 (Corwin) and will soon be releasing The Word Study That Sticks Companion: Classroom-Ready Tools for Teachers and Students, K–6 (Corwin). Connect with Koutrakos on Twitter @PamKou and on LinkedIn.

Elfrieda “Freddy” Hiebert is the president and CEO of TextProject, a nonprofit aimed at providing open-access resources for instruction of beginning and struggling readers. Her research, which addresses how fluency, vocabulary, and knowledge can be fostered through appropriate texts, has been published in numerous scholarly journals and books. Hiebert’s contributions to research and practice have been recognized through awards such as the Oscar S. Causey Award (Literacy Research Association, 2015), Relating Research to Practice Award (American Educational Research Association, 2013), William S. Gray Citation of Merit (International Reading Association, 2008), and election into the Reading Hall of Fame (2008).  

Gina Cervetti is an associate professor of literacy, language, and culture at University of Michigan. Her work focuses on the role of knowledge in literacy development, including word learning, and on vocabulary acquisition generally. In recent papers, Cervetti and colleagues have documented the challenge of using direct instruction of words to build the amount and type of vocabulary knowledge that can broadly impact text comprehension, and they have examined promising alternative approaches to supporting vocabulary development. Her research on vocabulary development has appeared in many journals, including Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, and Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal

Tanya S. Wright is an associate professor of language and literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. She is a former kindergarten teacher whose research and teaching focus on curriculum and instruction in language and literacy during the early childhood and elementary years. Her research examines instructional practices that promote oral language, vocabulary, and knowledge development for young children. Wright is coauthor of several books for teachers and parents, including All About Words: Increasing Vocabulary in the Common Core Classroom PreK–2 (Teachers College Press). Her work has been published in journals such as American EducatorThe Elementary School JournalThe Reading TeacherReading and Writing, and Reading Research Quarterly.

I look forward to our #ILAchat about vocabulary instruction and discovering how much more is going on in today’s classroom than looking up words in the dictionary and filling in blanks in sentences. Be sure to join us this Thursday, March 14, at 8:00 p.m. ET.

See you there!

Wesley Ford is the social media strategist for ILA.

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