Presentation on theme: "Choosing Words to Teach: Beyond Tier Two"— Presentation transcript:
1 Choosing Words to Teach: Beyond Tier Two William NagySeattle Pacific University19th West IRA Regional ConferenceOctober 10, 2008
2 I had helpThis talk is based on work I have been doing with Elfrieda Hiebert, in preparation for a chapter we are writing for Volume IV of the Handbook of Reading Research.Any imperfections in the presentation are my fault.
3 Why Choosing Words is Important Building students’ reading vocabulary is essential for student successThere are too many words to teachLack of vocabulary control in textsIncreased diversity of student populationHigh-quality vocabulary instruction is time-intensivePublishers don’t have a consistent, principled basis for proposing words for instruction
4 Beck et al.’s 3 Tiers Tier 1 “The most basic words” Tier 2 “High frequency words for mature language users”Tier 3 “Low frequency words”
5 Beck et al.’s Criteria for Tier 2 High frequency for mature language usersConceptually within reach of studentsRelated in useful ways to the topic of the lesson or to other words
6 High frequency for mature language users “How generally useful is the word? Is it a word that students are likely to meet often in other texts? Will it be of use to students in describing their own experiences?”“likely to appear frequently in a variety of texts and in the written and oral language of mature language users”“words that are characteristic of mature language users and appear frequently across a variety of domains”
7 Conceptually within reach of students “words [that] would allow students to describe with greater specificity people and situations they already have some familiarity with. However, notice that these words are not simple synonyms of the familiar ones, but represent more precise or complex forms of the familiar words.”
8 Related in useful ways to the topic of the lesson or to other words “What does the word bring to the text or situation?”“How does the word relate to other words?”“Does it relate directly to some topic of study in the classroom? Or might it add a dimension to ideas that have been developed?”
9 My critique of Tier 2 criteria Frequency: More attention needs to be given to objective measures of word frequencyConceptual difficulty: The criterion must be modified to apply to informational textRelationship to text and other words: Morphology (word parts) as well as meaning must be taken into account
10 Towards a comprehensive framework for word selection Multiple criteria for choosing wordsFrequencyFamiliarityConceptual difficultyRelationships among wordsRole in the text and the lesson
11 Selecting words must take multiple criteria into account The relative weight of these criteria depends on the kind of text, the reason for teaching the words, and the prior vocabulary knowledge of the students
12 What you need to know about word frequency Strengths and weaknesses of word frequencyA steep drop-off in word frequencyFrequency and text coverageSources of information about word frequency
13 Strengths and Weaknesses of Objective Measures of Word Frequency is NOT a good measure of familiarity (how likely students are to know the word)is NOT a good a good measure of difficulty (how hard the word is to learn)IS a good measure of frequency (how often the word actually occurs in print)
14 A steep drop-off in frequency If you order words from most to least frequent, absolute frequency drops off very rapidlyMost of the running words in text are from a relatively small set of high frequency words
19 The Frequency Drop-Off and Text Coverage Once you get past the core of high frequency words (3-4 thousand word families), the remaining words are low in frequency (and increasingly so). Hence:Each word occurs only rarely in printTeaching such words doesn’t substantially increase the proportion of words in text that students know
20 Percentage of text covered by words up to a given rank
21 What U (Frequency per million words of text) means A word with a frequency U=5 occurs 5 times in a million words of textAn average 5th grade student might encounter it 5 times a year – once every other month
22 What U=5 means for vocabulary instruction and text coverage If you taught 200 words with a frequency U=5 over the course of a year, what would your students gain?They would know one more word per thousand words of textThey would increase the proportion of running words that they know by one tenth of one percent (e.g., from 97% to 97.1%)
23 The problem with subjective impressions of word frequency Mature language users know words that actually occur very infrequently in textU = 0.5: centaur, cumulus, deacon, demise, farce, filly, grotto, martyr, mildew, smock, thistle, tier, typhoonU = 0.1 grail, grog, hag, latrine, lingo, octane, smirk, sprig
24 The problem with subjective impressions of word frequency Beck et al.’s examples of Tier 2 words include words with suspiciously low frequencies:U > 5: 26 words (merchant, tend)U 1 to 5: 17 words (sinister, sullen)U < words (detest, valet)
25 Information about Word Frequency: Frequencies for individual words Carroll, Davies, & Richman (1971). The Word Frequency Book.Zeno et al. (1995). The Educator’s Word Frequency Guide.The Corpus of Contemporary American English
26 Information about Word Frequency: Lists of frequent words General Service List2000 high-frequency, high-utility wordsAcademic Word List570 word families not in the General Service List that are frequent across a wide variety of academic domains
27 Applying Objective Frequency Data Data should inform – not replace – teacher judgmentIf a word is not in the high frequency core (that is, not in the General Service List or the Academic Word List), it should not be taught intensively unless there is some compelling reason based on the other criteria for word selection
28 FamiliarityA balancing act: You don’t want to teach words students already know, but further learning of partially-known words can often be helpful.
29 Improving students’ ability to judge their own word knowledge Comprehension monitoring is the foundation of all reading strategiesWord-level monitoring is a major component of comprehension monitoring
30 Improving students’ ability to judge their own word knowledge Your students should become proficient at answering questions such as:Do I know the meaning of this word?Does the meaning I know for this word fit the context?Do I know the meaning of this word well enough to keep reading with an adequate level of comprehension?
31 Conceptual Difficulty Beck’s criterion: “Words for which students understand the general concept but provide precision and specificity for describing the concept”Problem with this criterion: It excludes the most important words in informational text.
32 Another Tier 2 criterion that doesn’t apply to informational text “words that are characteristic of mature language users and appear frequently across a variety of domains”Problem with this criterion: Some extremely important content area terms don’t occur “frequently across a variety of domains”
33 Choosing words to teach from informational text Role in the lesson and relatedness to other words and concepts trumps frequencyInstruction focuses on learning conceptsExamples and non-examplesEmphasis on relationship among conceptsGraphic organizersRefutation of misconceptions when needed
34 Relationships to other words Relationships based on meaningBeck et al. discuss thisI would emphasize it even moreRelationships based on morphology (word parts)
35 Beck et al. on meaning relationships among words “How does the word relate to other words, to ideas that students know or have been learning?”Does the word have to be in the text being read? No:“Think in terms of words that coordinate with, expand, or play off of words, situations, or characters in the text”
36 Relationships based on meaning Learning a new word gives you not just knowledge of that word, but more precise knowledge of all the words to which it is related in meaning.When you select words, you take into account not only the value of the word itself, but the importance of the semantic field to which it belongs.
37 Taking related meanings into account Shudder – a low frequency word (family frequency U = 5)But it’s in an interesting domain – movement that convey an emotional state or reactionshiver, tremble, quiver, quakeflinch, wince, twitchwiggle, wobble, flutter, throbscowl, smirk, smile, frown, sneer
38 Taking related meanings into account Take related meanings into account, but don’t forget the problem of interference:Don’t simultaneously introduce new words that are highly similar in meaning (or form)
39 Taking morphology into account in word selection The words seldom and communicate are equally frequent in the languageseldom has no related formscommunicate is related to communication, communicative, uncommunicative, miscommunication
40 Taking morphology into account in word selection The words pyramid and sphere are equally frequent in the languagepyramid has no related formssphere is related to spherical, spheroid, hemisphere, atmosphere, biosphere, ionosphere, stratosphere, troposphere, blogosphere
41 Role in the text and the lesson Importance for understanding the text is not the only criterion – there are other ways besides vocabulary instruction to help students understand a text containing an unfamiliar word
42 Role in the text and the lesson Role in the lessonIntensity of instruction should be commensurate with your expectations for student learning
43 Selecting words must take multiple criteria into account The relative weight of these criteria depends on the kind of text, the reason for teaching the words, and the prior vocabulary knowledge of the students
44 Weighting of selection criteria depends on the genre of the text If you’re teaching words from informational text, thenDon’t use criteria developed for narrative textBe prepared to make the effort necessary to bring students to an understanding of concepts beyond their existing knowledge and experience
45 Weighting of selection criteria depends on the reasons for teaching words Different possible reasons for teaching word:Increasing the proportion of words in text that students knowDeveloping knowledge of specific conceptsDeveloping students’ generative word knowledge, especially knowledge of word partsNote that these are not mutually exclusive
46 Weighting of selection criteria depends on the reasons for teaching words If you’re teaching words to increase the proportion of words in text that are familiar to students, thenChoose words with moderate to high frequency (that is, words on the General Service List or the Academic Word List)Teach words thoroughly, so that students can use them
47 Weighting of selection criteria depends on the reasons for teaching words If you’re teaching words to develop knowledge of specific concepts, thenChoose words related to important themes and ideas – words that increase students’ ability to make and articulate clearer distinctions among important sets of conceptsDetermine the importance of the word based on the semantic field it belongs to, not just the individual word
48 Weighting of selection criteria depends on the reasons for teaching words If you’re teaching words develop students’ generative word knowledge, thenChoose words that illustrate morphological relationships – words that can be prefixed, suffixed, and compounded to form many new words
49 Weighting of selection criteria depends on the level of the students’ vocabulary The less familiar your students are with academic vocabulary, the more consideration you should give to word frequency as a criterion for word selection – but frequency is never the sole criterion for word selection, and using frequency as a criterion doesn’t mean that instruction can’t be engaging.