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Developing Word Consciousness: What do we know that can help English language learners? Judith A. Scott, University of California, Santa Cruz IRA World.

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Presentation on theme: "Developing Word Consciousness: What do we know that can help English language learners? Judith A. Scott, University of California, Santa Cruz IRA World."— Presentation transcript:

1 Developing Word Consciousness: What do we know that can help English language learners? Judith A. Scott, University of California, Santa Cruz IRA World Congress CostaCosta Rica 2008

2 Principal Investigator for The VINE project - Vocabulary Innovations in Education Grant funded by the US Department of Education (IES/NCER). 4th grade teachers in 6 school districts to help students, particularly English language learners, develop word consciousness and an understanding of how to use academic language as a tool of communication.

3 Goals of my presentation Introduce and develop the concept of word consciousness Introduce 10 ideas that I think can make a difference in how you think about vocabulary instruction

4 What is word consciousness and why is it important? an interest in and awareness of words the ability to reflect on, and manipulate words as units of language

5 Word consciousness helps students become aware of words in ways that go beyond a particular set of words.

6 Music Appreciation Art Appreciation Word Appreciation

7 2. Words are the building blocks of communication

8 Purpose of learning new word meanings: 1)to understand them when we are listening and reading (receptive vocabulary) and 2)to be able to use them when we are talking and writing (productive vocabulary).

9 English learners have to learn both basic words for communication in English and academic language which is found in schools and books.

10 Words tied to specific content: molecular, settlers, ecosystems, hypotenuse or Words that add richness and depth to writing: despicable, vacillate, translucent, grim

11 By the time children enter kindergarten, a conservative estimate is that native English speakers know 4,000–5,000 word families in orally in English.

12 It is estimated that the average native English speaking student in the United States learns new vocabulary words every year Much of that word learning comes from wide reading and informal vocabulary coaching

13 In U.S. schools, there is an ever-widening gap between proficient readers and those with access to informal vocabulary coaching, and those who are less skilled in reading who do not have as much access to informal vocabulary coaching.

14 Projected Growth of Root Words in Highest vs. Lowest Groups

15 Word Problem Solving Word Consciousness Wide Reading & Read Alouds Rich Oral Language The Vocabulary Pyramid (Lubliner & Scott, 2008)

16 Closing the vocabulary gap Co-ordinated multi-faceted effort Wide base of exposure to rich and varied language in books and conversations Fosters word consciousness Teaches problem solving skills for words Teaches students individual words & phrases

17 2. Word knowledge and world knowledge are closely aligned

18 Word Problem Solving Word Consciousness Wide Reading & Read Alouds Rich Oral Language

19 3. Word knowledge is complex and multi-dimensional


21 Word learning involves the development of a network of knowledge

22 Knowing a word isnt straightforward and simple Knowing a word involves knowing a word schema -- all sorts of things related to that word

23 Words have multiple meanings. As a reader or listener, you have to try to figure out an appropriate meaning given the context.

24 He put the dinner plates in the dishwasher He ran across home plate Baleen whales have jaws lined with plates of baleen instead of teeth.

25 4. Word learning is incremental and takes place in many steps over time. The more times one sees or hears a word, the more likely it is to be learned.

26 …He alternates using his big adze, axe and chainsaw, seeing in his mind how deeply to cut.

27 Word learning exists on a continuum Not Well Known

28 5. Different types of words require different types of instruction

29 Building new word meanings involves: 1. Building a completely new concept - photosynthesis - democracy 2. Attaching a new label to a known concept el gato = cat rapscallion = an annoying child

30 Building new word meanings involves: Locating a word within an existing semantic field Frigid = very cold Tamarind = a kind of fruit Expanding the domain of a known label - a new meaning of a word plate, baskets,

31 6. Traditional dictionaries are poor tools for learning the meanings of many new words

32 The wood must be placed level and firmly in the vice. Always plane in the direction of the grain. Vice: 1)An evil, degrading, or immoral practice or habit 2)Second in rank 3)A kind of strong tool for holding an object firmly Plane: 1)a surface generated by a straight line moving at a constant velocity 2)An airplane 3)To smooth with a plane

33 Definitions work best when: Attaching a new label to a known concept Locating a word within an existing semantic field

34 7. Students need others to help them learn both about the world and about how language works.

35 If we want students to learn the language of school we need to actively, explicitly and thoroughlymarinate students in opportunities to see, hear and use these words.

36 8. Exposure to rich and varied language can make a difference.

37 Exposure in preschool to rich vocabulary stimulating discussion predicts kindergarten literacy and 4th and 7th grade reading comprehension receptive vocabulary Dickinson & Tabors (2001)

38 Even a small amount of sophisticated word use with instructive support for the meaning of the words, increased vocabulary scores Weizman & Snow (2001)


40 Gift of words Students gather Put on strips of tagboard

41 Students finished couplets, water colored frames for their couplets, shared all kinds of poetry with each other, and started their own free verse. Its pretty clear to me that if I set the tone of words being gifts students will take the time to explore and work with their writing pieces. ~Margarita, 4th grade VINE teacher

42 9. Metacognitive coaching and the development of word consciousness can make a difference.

43 The most useful thing I learned as a writer this year is the Gift of Words. I like how you can take a sentence and transform it, like changing Im afraid to heart pounding fear. Sometimes I dont use them but I dont know why. When I do, BOOM, my sentences become a lot more powerful. ~Rodrigo, Grade 6

44 Cognate Recognition is a form of Word Consciousness Students who become proficient at cognate recognition are metacognitively aware that they can use cognate strategies to figure out new vocabulary

45 10. Creating connections between the students world, and the world of words used in schooling can make a difference.

46 For more information about our federally funded grant to explore word consciousness with 4th grade teachers, please contact: or visit us at our website

47 Books for Teachers: Scott, J., Skobel, B. & Wells, J. (2008). The Word-Conscious Classroom: Building the vocabulary readers and writers need. Scholastic: Theory and Practice Series. Lubliner, S. & Scott, J.A. (Expected in 2008). Nourishing Vocabulary. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

48 Most Recent Research Publications: Scott, J., Nagy, B. & Flinspach, S. (in press). More than merely words: Redefining vocabulary learning in a culturally and linguistically diverse society. In A. Farstrup & J. Samuels (Eds.). What Research Has to Say About Vocabulary Instruction. Newark, Delaware: IRA Scott, J.A., Hoover, M., Flinspach, S. & Vevea, J. (in press). A multiple level vocabulary assessment tool: Measuring word knowledge based on grade level materials. In Y. Kim, V. Risko, D. Compton, et. al. (Eds.), 57th National Reading Conference Yearbook. Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference

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