Hi everyone! Today, I am going to share some tips on how to increase vocabulary during reading. Vocabulary is so important for deepening reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. It is an essential ingredient for improving student literacy. I once read while working on my master’s degree that students were not performing as well on fourth grade state tests as they did on third grade state tests because of the vocabulary. To me, this did not seem fair to students and teachers because the needed vocabulary development to be successful on those state tests started long before fourth grade. The fact is if we are going to increase literacy in the classroom, we need to be very intentional with vocabulary instruction long before that. With that said, I have some tips to increase vocabulary for first through third grade.
2. If we are going to improve student performance, we have got to realize that vocabulary strategies are the next step in teaching reading after word decoding. Think about it. Once students know how to phonetically open each word or use other decoding skills to read known words, the next step to being a good reader is to be able to interpret those unrecognizable words that they now have the ability to sound out.
4. Vocabulary strategies include primarily context clues, but they encompass more than that. Vocabulary strategies are like a tool bag that students can pull out and apply, so they can determine the meaning of unknown words. It includes starting from the basics of just paying attention to those unknown words on up to using dictionaries and online resources. Of course, some strategies are more appropriate for first grade, and some are more appropriate for third grade.
6. Teach students when to use other resources to determine the meaning of an unknown word. It’s important for students to lean in on those context clues first. However, sometimes, they will have to break out a dictionary or use an online resource because the context did not offer any clarity to the meaning.
8. Have students show their thinking on paper. Not only does this give some accountability, but it creates an environment for more critical thinking and gives room for the meaning to resonate more with them.
10. Give extension activities for students to apply the words they gleaned from using vocabulary strategies. This way, students can revisit those words later down the road. This actually ties in with tip number nine. You want students reusing those vocabulary words, so have them break out their vocabulary journal for some extension activities.
11. To keep students motivated with practicing those vocabulary strategies, offer incentives. You know how we all can get off track at times with goals we are working towards, so use a student tracker for them to track and celebrate their progress along the way. Reward them for their accomplishments. Make it a big deal. Incentives need not cost a lot of money. The main ingredient is to make them feel special and to cheer them on. I also like to think this helps students to become mature adults who work toward goals and can self-monitor their progress to stay motivated.
Finally, make learning vocabulary a life long adventure with vocabulary strategies. Unlike direct instruction that is limited to the words being taught, vocabulary strategies transcend into skills that can be used throughout life. These are skills that students can carry from grade to grade, and this will enable students to succeed in leaps and bounds in their educational journey.