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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Misconceptions about vocabulary learning

June 27, 2012

One way to help a child do well in school (and life!) is to help them build their vocabulary. Beginning readers use knowledge about words to help them make sense of what they're reading. The more words a reader knows, the more they are able to comprehend what they're reading or listening to. There's an important link between vocabulary and comprehension.

Educational Leadership's June volume includes a solid article called Vocabulary: Five Common Misconceptions, written by scholars in the field, including Nancy Padak, Karen Bromley, Tim Rasinski and Evangeline Newton. The article is available online for free. I encourage you to read the full article!

If you can't stand the anticipation of wondering what the misconceptions are, I'll just say that the top two make a lot of sense — thinking that definitions do the trick, and thinking that weekly vocabulary lists are effective. But I encourage you to read the article for all five and for more context about each one. You'll also find suggested online resources for vocabulary learning.



A STEP FURTHER WITH VOCABULARY Often times when a teacher is doing a reading lesson, she invites us to identify the unfamiliar words from the reading text and then she writes them on the chalk board. What is the teacher doing? The teacher is helping us to build a strong vocabulary.Vocabulary is the study of:• The meanings of words Many words have several different meanings each, study the meanings of the words and the part of speech.• How the words are used Study the words in context, apply what you learn by writing sentences with your words.• Root words, prefixes, suffixes Studying these will aid in the study of vocabulary.• Analogies This is comparing two pairs of words and choosing the pair that goes together. Vocabulary is very important in the lives of our children because it helps them to be an effective communicator and to have a deep understanding in reading. Parents should try as much as possible to develop such skills in their children from in the younger years because it will help them as they go along. Which words should children learn?Piaget (1987) states that language development is related to cognitive development, meaning, the development of the child's thinking determines when the child can learn to speak and what the child can say. All words have meaning. Learning a new word means that we can have parental involvement in choosing these words for our children. The parent or guardian can make a list of words that he or she considers to be suitable for the child`s age, level and abilities. The words can be easy so to speak (two, three, four letter words) and as the child learns the new word them it’s wise to move on to avoid boredom and lack of interest. Therefore, we challenge them as they go to expand their knowledge and reading stills.How can I help my child learn words?Research studies have shown that children learn words after been repeated several times before they store them in their long- term memory. This is how, through reading, we learn the words of our own language. Words are also more easily learned if your child is active - drawing a picture of the word, writing her own definition of it in English or the mother tongue, thinking of an example sentence to use it in. This is better than simply writing the word and its native language equivalent. Parents can help by encouraging their child/ children to read at home. Again, parents you can go over your child`s school notes to help them where they are weak or just to increase their vocabulary.

This was very helpful to give me the incentive to make sure usage and word learning aren't exhausting and will make sense with materials they read in class or at home with availability.

I love the misconceptions shared by the authors. I often try to also model the way I think about words, both those that I know and those that I am learning! The suggestions for different activities would work for a variety of grade levels.

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