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Vocabulary Builder

Vocabulary builder
Ivy League Vocabulary
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Vocabulary Words


What words should you teach?
You won't be able to directly teach all the vocabulary words in a text that they might not already know. In fact, there are several reasons why you should not directly teach all unknown words.

  • The text may have a great many words that are unknown to students-too many for direct instruction.
  • Direct vocabulary instruction can take a lot of time that you might better spend on having children read.
  • Children can understand most texts without knowing the meaning of every word in the text.
  • Children need opportunities to use word-learning strategies to learn on their own the meanings of unknown words.

You will probably to be able to teach thoroughly only a few new words (perhaps eight or ten) per week, so you need to choose the words you teach carefully. Focus on teaching three types of words:

Important vocabulary words - When you teach words before students read a text, directly teach those words that are important for understanding a concept or the text. Your students might not know several other words in the selection, but you will not have time to teach them all. Of course, you should prepare your students to use word-learning strategies to figure out the meanings of other words in the text.

Useful vocabulary words - Teach words that students are likely to see and use again and again. For example, it is probably more useful for students to learn the word fragment than the word fractal; likewise, the word revolve is more useful than the word gyrate.

Difficult vocabulary words - Words with multiple meanings are particularly challenging for children. Children may have a hard time understanding that words with the same spelling and/or pronunciation can have different meanings, depending on their context. Looking up words with multiple meanings in the dictionary can cause confusion for children. They see a number of different definitions listed, and they often have a difficult time deciding which definition fits the context. You will have to help children determine which definition they should choose.

Examples of multiple-meaning vocabulary words that can be difficult:

  • Words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently - sow (a female pig); sow (to plant seeds) bow (a knot with loops); bow (the front of a ship)
  • Words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings - mail (letters, cards, and packages); mail (a type of armor) ray (a narrow beam of light); ray (a type of fish); ray (part of a line)







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