As promised in my last blog, we are moving forward with a vengeance this year regarding our relentless focus to get all children reading on grade level! Last year we focused on our analysis (running records and Developmental Reading Assessment) and instruction (providing both instructional and stretch levels of reading daily). So, why are we adding vocabulary to our recipe for student achievement success?
Well, after reviewing data from several resources, we noticed that vocabulary was an area of concern for the majority of our students. We believe there are several reasons for this. First, we have about 40% English Language Learners who are acquiring English. Second, we serve a population where 85% of our students receive free or reduced lunch. Not all, but many of these students need a focus on vocabulary acquisition to move forward with reading success. Ultimately, we know that reading research shows that vocabulary knowledge is the strongest predictor of reading success across content areas. So, we needed to create a systemic building-wide system for increasing vocabulary. Again, a dear friend helped us get started, Mrs. Jennifer Jones. If you don't already, you need to follow her blog which is a dynamite source of professional development!
Jennifer came to Sonora Elemetnary on July 1st and 2nd to do professional development in 21st Century Vocabulary instruction. We called it Word Up!
What a change in our teaching of vocabulary! First, we are working on all three tiers of vocabulary instruction: tier 1 words are basic words used in our everyday speech, tier 2 words are used across several content areas, tier 3 words are not frequently used except in specific content areas; yet, they are key to building knowledge and conceptual understanding within the various academic domains and should be integral to instruction of content.
At Sonora we are focusing on all three. Tier one words are being taught beginning in kindergarten with sight words or high frequency words that children will encounter daily. Some examples are at, from, and, to, etc. Tier 2 words are being taught through daily instruction in all content areas. These words are also on class word walls.
Tier 3 words are a work in progress building-wide. Each 9 weeks our staff gets together to identify 9 grade level Tier 3 words in a given content area. We began with math in August. Click here to access Sonora's Tier 3 math vocabulary words by grade level. Our teachers recognized quickly that we needed to also confirm the student friendly definitions. So, we created these by grade leve, too. Click here to see our definitions, vocabulary, and student friendly definitions. A great resource to us during this process was a new publication by Marzano and Simms called, Vocabulary for the Common Core.
We will be following this same process in reading, science, and social studies. The process involves a set of criteria recommended by Marzano.
We have purchased composition notebooks for every K - 5th grade student at our building. This allows for our systemic building-wide focus on vocabulary. In addition, we do a Scholarly Word of the Week each week based on Tier 2 words. The first word this year was scholar. Our mascot is Sonny and Scholar. Isn't he cute? Yet, we wondered if our students truly knew what a "scholar" means. Hence, it was our first Scholary Word of the Week.
We announce the Scholarly Word of the Week each week with a little music. Each day we ask the students to do something different with the word. We begin with a student friendly definition. We progress to synonyms/antonyms, a sentence, and a picture. See some samples below of our work in our first week as we modeled for our students, as well as one recent.
Mrs. Reed's 1st Grade Class
The following are examples of Tier 2 charts the classes develop as they (purposefully) encouter words in their daily instruction.
Below are examples of student vocabulary notebooks:
In the classrooms you will find word walls. Below you will see just a sample of one classroom. Yet, Mrs. Hennarichs has also created a school-wide word wall that encompasses words form all grade levels.
Scholary Word Wall (located in Cafeteria)
We are also rewarding children when they are "Caught Using Scholarly Vocabulary". We use a school-wide template. The students bring their cards to the office to put in a vocabulary word box. Then, each month at our Hoot n' Holler Assemblies we try to recognize 20 to 30 students randomly from the tickets in the box.
We recently held a We Are Common Core Vocabulary Night where we taught the parents how they can support our work to increase their child's vocabulary. We had a phenomenal turn-out! During our time with parents, we provided them a composition notebook and a template for how to do 4 sqaure vocabulary with their child at home. We encouraged the parents to support the scholarly word of the week, as well as help students learn words they encounter in conversations at home and in their environment. Here is a sample from the internet:
In the classroom, teachers save copy cost significantly by having the students fold the paper into 1/4ths to create a four square. Also, not specified by the example above, the vocabulary word is written/entered in the center circle.
While all this is going on, we are finding unique ways to engage students in their vocabulary learning. On October 31st we are having a school-wide vocabulary parade. We are working with our parents, again to try to increase the awareness of vocabulary in our lives. Every child in the building will be participating; if students are not able to create a vocabulary costume at home, teachers will be working with the students to help identify a word in the current curriculum to "be" at our parade. I promise we will post pictures to our Facebook page, as well as I will try to add a new blog here.
I will continue to highlight our vocabulary instruction as we go throughout the year. We are currently tracking vocabulary data as collected on Northwest Evaluation Association's Measuring Academic Progress. We hope to share our success with student's increasing vocabulary, and consequently their increased reading achievement. Stay tuned!