Monday, March 20, 2017

Vocabulary: Part 4: Content Words in Story and Information Text

Tier 3: Content Words
My favorite source on vocabulary knowledge: K through HS is the Text Project.  There is an extensive list of resources on this site.  Here are some that address Tier 3: Content Words for younger children.




Science (on the playground)

Critical Science Vocabulary

New words in science lessons and texts usually represent unknown concepts (e.g., photosynthesis, erosion). This is different than the new vocabulary in narratives that typically pertain to known concepts (e.g., new words such as raucous and boisterous instead of the familiar noisy). In this presentation, Elfrieda H. Hiebert [presenter] will discuss the need to make science vocabulary education a priority in grades one through four. If the concepts are not taught in grades one through four, later when the students are in the middle grades they will be faced with an inordinate number of challenging words, representing complex and unknown concepts

Monday, March 13, 2017

Vocabulary Part 3 Tiered Words

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 Excerpted from one of my other blogs: Dialogue About Language, Literacy, and Learning

Several distinctions have been made about types of vocabulary words to be learned.  One currently popular distinction is categorizing “Tiered Words.”  Beck formulated a system where she described words as Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3. Here’s a link to her work with Mc Keown and Kucan (Creating Robust Vocabulary, Guildford Press, 2008):
 al. al. describe these levels (tiers) as
Tier One: Most basic words, rarely require instruction in school; Exs: clock, baby, happy
Tier Two: Words that are of high frequency in mature language use and are found across a variety of domains; Exs: coincidence, absurd, industrious.
Tier Three: Words whose frequency of use is quite low and is often limited to specific domains; best learned when needed in a content area; Exs: isotope, lathe, peninsula

(Note: Tiered vocabulary is not to be confused with Tier 1, 2, and 3 Instruction in Response to Intervention literature. Those tiers refer to the level of intervention needed for students who are or are not progressing as expected in the regular classroom. The instruction is not specific to vocabulary).
* * * *
 A description of tiered words from an elementary school.
Taken from Images of Academic Words where there are many other images/links. Simply google “images for academic words.”

And here is a commercial site that provides a 3 minute video distinguishing tiers of words:

Tier 1 words: These words are basic vocabulary or the more common words most children will know. They include high-frequency words and usually are not multiple meaning words.

Tier 2 words: Less familiar, yet useful vocabulary found in written text and shared between the teacher and student in conversation. The Common Core State Standards refers to these as “general academic words.” Sometimes they are referred to as “rich vocabulary.” These words are more precise or subtle forms of familiar words and include multiple meaning words. Instead of walk for example, saunter could be used. These words are found across a variety of domains.

Tier 3 words: CCSS refers to these words as “domain specific;” they are critical to understanding the concepts of the content taught in schools. Generally, they have low frequency use and are limited to specific knowledge domains. Examples would include words such as isotope, peninsula, refinery. They are best learned when teaching specific content lessons, and tend to be more common in informational text.

So, we might consider Tier 2 words as general “academic words” while Tier 3 words are considered “content specific words” referring to words/concepts learned in content areas like science and social studies.

We can also distinguish words important for instruction: frequency, conceptual complexity (abstractness), and word relationships: familiarity, morphological family, semantic relationships and dispersion.

One of the very best sources on a range of vocabulary topics is the Text Project.  See, for example:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Vocabulary Development and Learning: Part 2B

The topic of vocabulary development is important enough to add some new and recent links/excerpts:
Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry
Sean F. Reardon, Ximena A. Portilla (August 2016 ). Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry, American Educational Research Association (AERA) Open, DOI: 10.1177/2332858416657343,
From Reading Rockets
A short excerpt:
“This study found that low-income kindergarten students have reversed the trend of growing academic achievement gaps between them and their higher-income peers. Academic achievement gaps grew from the 1970s to the 1990s, but from 1998 to 2010 the gaps shrank 10-16%. During this time frame, the White-Hispanic kindergarten readiness gap and the White-Black gap each dropped. Researchers attributed the improved preparedness, in part, to low-income parents spending significantly more time reading to their children, taking them to museums, and introducing them to educational games on computers. Despite the narrowing of these readiness gaps, they remain large and, in fact, progress is so slow that at the rate that improvements are occurring, it will take at least 60 years for disparities to be eliminated.

Teaching Vocabulary  Early, Direct, and Sequential

By Andrew Biemiller
A short excerpt
“Schools now do little to promote vocabulary development, particularly in the critical years before grade 3. The role of schooling in vocabulary acquisition has been the subject of much debate. Early (pre-literacy) differences in vocabulary growth are associated with social class (Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, and Klebanov, 1994; Hart and Risley, 1995; McLloyd, 1998). Nagy and Herman (1987) and Sternberg (1987) argue that much vocabulary acquisition results from literacy and wide reading rather than from direct instruction. However, it is obvious that a great deal of vocabulary acquisition occurs before children become literate, and before they are reading books that introduce unfamiliar vocabulary (Becker, 1977). Cantalini (1987) and Morrison, Williams, and Massetti (1998) both report that vocabulary acquisition in kindergarten and grade 1 is little influenced by school experience, based on finding that young first-graders have about the same vocabulary (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) as older kindergarten children. Cantalini reported the same result for second grade. - See more at:

Closing the Vocabulary Gap
Alex Rappaport argues that word acquisition may be the easiest way to close the achievement gap
A short excerpt:
“One promise of public education is to level the playing field across the socioeconomic and ethnic spectrum. Unfortunately, the system is not fulfilling that promise. The achievement gap has been an issue for decades, and it’s getting worse."
"A recent study released by Stanford University sociologist Sean F. Reardon shows that the gap has widened by 40% since the 1960s. The study looked at the disparity in academic achievement between students in the tenth percentile of family income against students in the ninetieth percentile. Standardized test scores were used as a metric, which is fairly common in achievement gap studies. Other metrics include high school dropout rates and college graduation rates. Unfortunately, the relationship between income and achievement is consistent across all of these metrics. According to Teach for America, only 8% of students growing up in poverty graduate from college by age 24, compared with 80% of students in more affluent areas. In other words, the effects of the gap extend beyond test scores and make a significant impact on achievement throughout a student’s academic career.”
"Many researchers attribute the lower achievement to “opportunity gaps” such as a lack of educational resources at home, limited access to health-care, and even more subtle factors like test bias, stereotyping, and peer pressure. With so many social and cultural factors at play, the problem can seem insurmountable. What to fix first? And how? Elimination of poverty or improvements to the health care system can’t be achieved from within the classroom walls" ….
 Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction: A Literature Review
August 2016 Prepared for: Policy and Program Studies Service Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development U.S. Department of Education
 Prepared by: Katie Drummond Aleksandra Holod Marie Perrot Antonia Wang American Institutes for Research Washington, DC 20007

A short excerpt from a 108 page report

“Executive Summary This literature review provides a review of policies, programs, and practices that have the potential to help students sustain the positive effects of preschool as they progress from kindergarten through grade 3 (K–3). The U.S. Department of Education’s Policy and Program Studies Service commissioned this systematic literature review, which focuses on two specific approaches: (1) preschool and K–3 alignment, and (2) differentiated instruction in kindergarten and first grade. Background Research shows that participation in a high-quality preschool can improve young children’s readiness skills for elementary school, positively influencing behavioral, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes (Andrews, Jargowsky, & Kuhne, 2012). Specifically, for children who may be at risk for academic challenges in early elementary school, attending a high-quality preschool can improve test scores and attendance, and it can reduce grade-level retention and placement in special education (Andrews et al., 2012; Barnett, 2008; Karoly & Bigelow, 2005; Reynolds, 1993; Reynolds et al., 2007). However, some preschool program evaluations document that strong initial benefits may not persist into early elementary school (Lipsey, Farran, & Hofer, 2015; Magnuson, Meyers, Ruhm, & Waldfogel, 2005; Manship, Madsen, Mezzanotte, & Fain, 2013; Ramey et al., 2000; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). Preschool benefits may not persist for many reasons, including lack of continuous follow-up with participating students, lack of family supports or involvement, or limited intensity or duration of the preschool program (Brooks-Gunn, 2003; Halpern, 2013; Reynolds, Magnuson, & Ou, 2006). The positive effects of preschool may not persist if children attend poor-quality elementary schools after preschool (Clements, Reynolds, & Hickey, 2004; Lee & Loeb, 1995). Without additional and continuous supports as children continue through the early elementary grades, participation in preschool cannot overcome potential challenges that children, particularly those at risk for poorer academic outcomes, may face. It is important to identify ways to sustain early cognitive, social-emotional, and academic gains in order to give all students opportunities to thrive academically. To explore potential ways to sustain the positive effects of preschool, this literature review focused on two specific topics: (1) preschool and K–3 alignment and (2) differentiated instruction in kindergarten and first grade. The U.S. Department of Education’s Policy and Program Studies Service (PPSS), in collaboration with the Office of Early Learning, selected eight topics for preliminary searches after initial attempts to identify interventions specifically designed to sustain the benefits of preschool turned up low yields. Based on the search results (and after receiving input from multiple Department offices), PPSS recommended two final topics for the literature review. PPSS made final decisions about further specifications for the differentiated instruction section (e.g., only include research spanning grades K–1 and exclude studies that focus exclusively on lower-achieving students)."

 Preschool and K–3 Alignment The first topic focuses on approaches to align preschool and kindergarten through grade 3.

"The first topic focuses on approaches to align preschool and kindergarten through grade 3. Preschool or prekindergarten and K–3 alignment (sometimes called P–3) emphasizes coordination among standards, curricula, instructional practices, student assessment, and teacher professional development between the preschool years and the early elementary school years. Early childhood experts assert that the effects of preschool may be sustained and investment in early education capitalized upon if curricula and instructional strategies from preschool through grade 3 are well aligned (Bogard & Takanishi, 2005; Brooks-Gunn, 2003; Howard, 2008). As Reynolds and Temple (2008) suggest, P–3 programs may provide more continuity and better organization of services for students as well as enhanced school-family partnerships.
Differentiated Instruction.
 The second topic focuses on differentiated instruction in kindergarten and first grade. The premise of differentiated instruction is that teaching practices and curricula should vary to meet the diverse needs and skills of the individual student and to optimize students’ learning experiences (Tomlinson, 2000, 2001). In a differentiated instructional delivery model, student needs are emphasized (Stanford & Reeves, 2009), with teachers purposively adapting instructional strategies and the focus of skill building to be responsive to individual or groups of students (Jones, Yssel, & Grant, 2012). One explanation for why initial benefits of preschool do not persist as students enter elementary school is that children who make early gains in preschool may not have the opportunity to maintain their growth rate or learning trajectory because early elementary instruction may focus on students who are less prepared and have low-level skills. In other words, instruction may not be differentiated, and in some cases may not be rigorous enough, to meet and build upon the skills that some students have upon school entry (Claessens, Engel, & Curran, 2013; Kauerz, 2006; Lipsey, Farran, & Hofer, 2015)."

Monday, February 27, 2017

Vocabulary Development: Part 2Ae

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From Dialogue About Language, Literacy and Learning
03APR2014Leave a comment
Part 2A

We have a long history of research that tells us that children who enter Kindergarten behind their peers in language skills, particularly vocabulary skills, will be at a great educational disadvantage and often will not catch up for many years, if at all. This is still another indicator that “We can’t wait” until 3rd grade to decide that children are behind and need to catch up.

 One of the first studies on the “achievement gap” that I read has had a great influence on my work and teaching of courses in “Language and Learning” and “Reading Comprehension”. In 1976 NCTE published a monograph titled Language Development, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve by Walter Loban. Loban reported on a study where Loban (and his team) followed a group of 211 students who differed in sex, ethnic background, socioeconomic status and spread of intellectual abilities. Data were provided on 3 subgroups of children described as high functioning, low functioning, and mixed (high and low functioning) based on a range of listening, speaking, reading and writing measures along with teacher ratings every year of the amount of language, quality of vocabulary, skill in communication, organization, purpose and control of language, wealth of ideas, and quality of listening. Loban’s most telling finding was that “those superior in oral language in kindergarten and grade one before they learned to read and write are the very ones who excel in reading and writing by the time they are in grade six.

 A second influential group of studies looked at vocabulary specifically and the differences in achievement, even at the preschool level.
The Hart and Risley Study (The Matthew Effect)
The Thirty Million Word Gap
“In this ground breaking study, Betty Hart and Todd Risley entered the homes of 42 families from various socio-economic backgrounds to assess the ways in which daily exchanges between a parent and child shape language and vocabulary development. Their findings were unprecedented, with extraordinary disparities between the sheer number of words spoken as well as the types of messages conveyed. After four years these differences in parent-child interactions produced significant discrepancies in not only children’s knowledge, but also their skills and experiences with children from high-income families being exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. Follow-up studies showed that these differences in language and interaction experiences have lasting effects on a child’s performance later in life.”

See other resources from the Rice center for education: the OWL Lab in Action (Videos) (Oral and Written Language Laboratory for preK students)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vocabulary and Early Literacy

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 To understand early literacy development, I focus next on words. Children need to be able to identify/decode words.  They also need to know the meaning of the words they read. Vocabulary knowledge is central to reading and reading comprehension. Five topics will be addressed over the next few weeks:

1 Oral Language Development of Vocabulary—as the basis for reading vocabulary
2 The Matthew Effect—the impact of early vocabulary development and the achievement gap
3 Academic Vocabulary
4 Vocabulary Differences in Narrative and Information Texts
5 Vocabulary Instruction.

Oral Language Development of Vocabulary: Three Perspectives

Speaking and Listening for Preschool Through Grade Three, Lauren B. Resnick and Catherine B. Snow, IRA, 2009
“Speaking and listening are the foundation of reading and writing. A child who does not have a large and fluent vocabulary will have difficulty with every aspect of reading, from recognizing or sounding out words to making sense of a story or directions.” (p. vi)
“From the time they are infants until they are about 8 years old, children learn most of what they know by hearing other people talk: Talking is the main way children get to know the world, understand complex events, and encounter different perspectives.” (p. 3)

Harvard Graduate School of Education, Winter 2001 by Lori Hough
The beginning of the reading process…

“The reading process begins, of course, way before kids even walk into classes like McCaffrey’s.  As Shonkoff, a former pediatrician and current director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, says, “Kids learn to understand words before they speak them.” As soon as parents and caregivers pick up a cooing baby and coo back, the process begins, with the baby beginning to understand the back and forth of conversation.
By the time a child is 18 months old, Shonkoff writes in his book, From Neurons to Neighborhoods, their world is a language explosion, acquiring, on average, about nine new words a day, every day, through preschool.”  … He continues

“By the time children enter formal education, it is estimated that they know the meaning of about 5,000 to 6,000 words when they hear them, and can probably recognize in print a handful of easily memorized “sight words” — words like “the” and “to” and “stop” that pop up often in books and on signs and menus.”

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
The Importance of the Number of Words Known by Age Five for Later School Achievement by Andrew Biemiller.
“Children who do not know many words by the end of kindergarten often have poor reading comprehension in later grades. By the time children begin kindergarten, they have already acquired much of their language. They speak in sentences and they understand simple stories and simple explanations. By 5 years of age, most children probably know more than one or two thousand root word meanings.”…..
“I estimate that by the beginning of kindergarten, children’s vocabulary size ranges from 2300 root word meanings (average for children with low vocabularies) to 4700 root word meanings (average for children with high vocabularies).
During the grades from kindergarten to grade two, the difference between children with small and large vocabularies continues to get larger. By the end of grade two, children in the low vocabulary group average 4000 root word meanings, children in the average vocabulary group know about 6000 meanings, and children in the large vocabulary group average 8000 meanings. These large vocabulary differences have developed before children have had much of an opportunity to build vocabulary from their own reading. Beginning readers (kindergarten-grade two) mainly read “primer” texts using relatively few words.”  …..  He continues:
“In this section, I discuss how words are learned and how some children come to know many more words than other children. I will also discuss how home differences and child-care interventions affect word development.”  He also gives offers several lists of specific words:
“See Table 1 for a list of some preschool words and their meanings. See Table 2 for a list of word meanings recommended for attention, explanation, or instruction for children ages 3 to 5 years. [There are approximately 40 pages that make up these lists.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Development of “articulation skills”

“Believe it or not, children begin to develop these skills starting at BIRTH! I know I know, babies are not born talking…but they are born listening and listening is the first step in learning how to produce speech sounds, which in turn will turn into meaningful words, phrases and sentences! If I remember correctly (I’ll go find the study and link it back here) children learn the sounds of their native language by NINE MONTHS OF AGE!”

Growing more and more “articulate” 
“Children develop the ability to produce speech sounds at different rates. For example, research shows that two year olds are 50-75% intelligible, while three-year olds are 75-100% intelligible. That means it’s normal if a 3-year old talks, and you only understand 3/4 of what he/she says…..”

Progressing from oral to written sounds
Learning “sounds” progresses from oral to written language with the development of phonics, an essential skill in learning to read.  Here are links that addresses the relevant phonological/phonemic awareness and phonics/decoding skills.

Phonological/phonemic awareness skills

Phonics instruction helps children learn the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Language Development: A Starting Place for a Child's Development

A short excerpt.  Click link to see the entire posting.

I will use a Sound-Word-Sentence-Discourse framework to trace the development of oral language and its relationship to reading, beginning here with Sounds. Both the oral language development literature and the reading development literature are relevant. Taking the position that learning to read begins with oral language, an understanding of language development is critical.
We can trace the development of sounds and phonology (specifically, for our interests in early literacy, phonological awareness and the alphabetic principle)
*discrimination and articulation of sounds
*phonological awareness
*the alphabetic principles (sound/letter relationships)

Sounds: Oral Language Development Literature
There are several relevant developmental progressions for “sounds” or “sounds into words”. Of course, children learn about “sounds” before they learn about “written” words, although they know a great deal about “oral” words before they can read them.