Vocabulary learning and growth is essential for good language acquisition. It is one of the core competencies which enhances grammatical and comprehension skills and builds other skills in higher grades. In one of the researches it was observed that out of 4469 minutes of reading instructions, only nineteen minutes were devoted to vocabulary instructions by teachers. Pikulsi & Templeton (2009) classify vocabularies in four different types and explain how being rich in one type of vocabulary does not automatically amount to being rich in another type.
The four types of vocabularies are listening, speaking, writing and reading These are governed and are inter related with each other by another four higher classes of expressive, literate, receptive and oral vocabularies. Though these are inter-related they are not completely inter dependent. Hence, we often see school children talking fluently but having difficulties in reading a sentence/ word and comprehending the same.
According to the authors, the amount of vocabulary that children need to acquire each year is staggering in scope, estimated to be about 3,000 words a year. Therefore, a comprehensive approach consisting of the following components needs to be in place. These can also be considered as recommendations for vocabulary enhancement.
Provide direct instruction in the meanings of clusters of words and individual words.
It is essential that children are taught daily- necessary- technical- flowery words. For a teacher, especially when she is trying to overcome the vocabulary barrier, it is very difficult to decide which words to teach. The types of words are classified in four different types:
- Level I words: These words are used over and over in everyday speech. Since they are so frequently used in a variety of contexts, virtually all children learn them. Some examples of these words would be house, girl, cat, up, umbrella, etc. or similar words in other languages.
- Level II words: These words are likely to be learned only through reading or through instruction. They have been referred to as the vocabulary of educated persons, as “academic vocabulary,” and as “instructional vocabulary.” They are words that are necessary for general success in school.
- Level III words: These are words associated with a particular field of study or profession. These words make up the technical vocabulary.
- Level IV words: These words are interesting but so rare and esoteric that they are probably not useful even in most educational environments, and they are not associated with a field of study or profession.
If we follow the classification, it is evident that the teacher has to mainly focus on levels II and III for students to get overall success and hold over the competency. This can be achieved by a little rigorous input during the classroom sessions by focussing on the word usage and words student speak and use.
Using “instructional” read-aloud events.
The recommendation that parents and teachers read aloud to children is among the most popular recommendations in the field of reading. It is believed that this is the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.
Systematically teaching students the meaning of prefixes, suffixes, and root words.
Though this is more relevant to English language, for Indian languages as well, during the middle grades, various prefixes and suffixes that are uniform and carry the same meanings should be emphasized on. That will orient students more towards understanding the word root and thus develop meaning.
If we can focus on explaining word roots to the children, their understanding of vocabulary will increase. Vocabulary then no longer will remain an exercise of memory.
By Gayatri Vaidya: Educational Specialist
(Member of Large Scale Assessment)
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