Aha! Moment at ASHA15

The American Speech Language Hearing Association's (ASHA) annual conference in Denver was outstanding this year. Beth Lawrence and I were able to present our InferCabulary and WordQuations methods to more than 700 SLPS who are in the trenches with students everyday. More importantly, we got our batteries recharged by attending some excellent sessions learning and re-learning important skills.

We've all relished in seeing our students have that aha! moment. I thrive on it and beam when it happens. In Denver last week, I had my own aha! moment. I was in the Practical Strategies for Middle School and High School students class with hundreds of other SLPS (in the overflow room) and something Stephen Charlton said made the lightbulb illuminate. 

SLPs are not responsible for getting the student a good grade on the next test. They are responsible for giving students the strategies so later in the school year they are getting good grades, because they can.

That message was freeing. As a speech language pathologist in private practice, I feel so much pressure to help my students ace that next test by learning the vocabulary, developing mnemonics to recall information and comprehending the textbook passages. It's a reminder that my job is to give my students strategies to learn new vocabulary effectively. I need to teach them how to attack expository text by paying attention to the key words in the passages. The student and I work together to find what strategies work for them in all areas of academics and then hone those skills so they can master the material independently, eventually.

I'm disowning the guilt trip I feel when students don't do as well as I would hope. I'm taking on the role of language expert and cheerleader, all wrapped in one. Still relishing in those aha! moments, but looking more for the light at the end of the tunnel when they master a language skill that leads to accomplishment and success. - Deena Seifert, M.S.,CCC-SLP

Robust Vocabulary Instruction

In the last ten years there has been a lot of research into Vocabulary and here is what I've learned:

  1. We should focus on tier 2 words. (Beck & McKeown, 2002)
  2. Students need multiple exposures to words they are learning. (Stahl, 2005)
  3. Instruction needs to utilize a variety of methods. (NICHD, 2000)
  4. Learning words in context sometimes requires a prior knowledge and inferential reasoning skills. (Univ. of Illinois, 2007)
  5. When teaching a class, 1/3 already know the word, 1/3 will get it, and 1/3 of students won't get it. (Katz, 2005)
  6. Most people (65%) are good visual learners, so using multiple pictures and photographs to help students learn a word is a useful strategy.
  7. Students need to learn the words deeply and broadly, not just a quick definition in one context. (Stahl & Kapinus, 2001)
  8. In order to build vocabulary, students need to develop an interest and an awareness beyond the words. (Beck & McKeown, 2002)
  9. Using technology to learn vocabulary is effective (NICHD, 2000)