The Tiers of Vocabulary

jenga

With the implementation of common core in the public schools, the emphasis on vocabulary and its instruction in relation to the academic curriculum has been at the forefront of research. Teaching vocabulary involves a multidimensional approach that can include visuals, multiple exposures in various contexts or relation to prior knowledge. Beyond this instruction, knowing which types of words to teach can positively impact vocabulary acquisition for our students (S. Mosburg-Michael, 2011).

Below are the three tiers of vocabulary:

Tier 1 vocabulary are words (nouns, adjectives, verbs) found in early literacy that occur frequently in everyday conversation. These words are simple because they are commonly heard making them easy to acquire and typically do not have more than one meaning.

Tier 2 vocabulary are words that require a higher level of thinking and understanding. They are found in adult conversations and literature. This literature aspect is an important one to consider in relation to Tier 2 vocabulary because typically when these words begin to appear in the curriculum, the children are at an age in which they are “reading to learn” as opposed to “learning to read.” In other words, this level of vocabulary is important for reading comprehension, contains multiple meanings and is indicative of a student’s progress in school (Hutton, 2008).

Tier 3 vocabulary words can be described as words that do not occur as frequently and are highly specific to the context. Examples of these words include medical, economy or monarchy. These words tend to be found in a particular subject as opposed to within varying contexts. This specificity makes it more challenging to acquire.

InferCabulary Pro is an interactive and engaging edtech tool that focuses on teaching Tier 1 and Tier 2 vocabulary that are essential to access the academic curriculum and ensure that our students or children can comprehend what they’ve read or heard in class to learn the plethora of new information introduced to them.

Hutton, T. Three Tiers of Vocabulary and Education [PDF document]. Retrieved from Super Duper Online Web site: https://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/182_VocabularyTiers.pdf

Mosburg-Michael, S. (2011) Supporting Vocabulary and Language Development Through Collaboration with Classroom Teachers [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from: https://hollistonspeech.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/asha-collaboration-2011-pptx.pdf

Post by Guest Blogger - Kellie Ileto, M.A., SLP works as a speech language pathologist in Montgomery County Public Schools with children who are deaf/hard of hearing. She recently graduated from George Washington University where she worked in a Cochlear Implant Research Lab and completed her Masters thesis focusing on pragmatic language in children with autism.


Vocabulary Development and Why Infercabulary Works

parent reading

Vocabulary development is most widely known to occur through reading and oral language. Parents are frequently advised to read to their children and to talk to their children. This relates specifically to two common processes called fast mapping and extended mapping.

Fast mapping is a rapid process by which children hear a word and connect it with a general understanding of the concept (Carey & Bartlett, 1978). This often occurs when talking to a child about their immediate environment and labeling the objects in this environment. Fast mapping however is limited to these specific contexts or environments.

Multiple exposures to the word in varying contexts are needed to provide an increased depth and understanding of the vocabulary world. This process of refining one’s understanding of a vocabulary word is called extending mapping. Overall, fast mapping contributes to the variety of vocabulary words an individual learns while extended mapping contributes to the depth and understanding of those words acquired.

An important aspect that helps with these mapping processes is context clues. Context clues are hints that allow a person to infer what the meaning of an unknown word may be. For example: Handle this glass vase carefully because it is fragile. Context clues could include “glass” and “carefully.” These context clues however are language based which can be difficult for our students who already struggle with speech and language skills. Therefore, InferCabulary Pro bases its context clues and inferencing on visual input rather than language. By allowing kids to infer meaning based on visual examples and a variety of contexts the language aspect is no longer a hindrance to our students learning new vocabulary.

Post by Guest Blogger - Kellie Ileto, M.A., SLP works as a speech language pathologist in Montgomery County Public Schools with children who are deaf/hard of hearing. She recently graduated from George Washington University where she worked in a Cochlear Implant Research Lab and completed her Masters thesis focusing on pragmatic language in children with autism.


Vocabulary Must "Fit" Into Their World

So often we think of vocabulary in the context of a definition, but we need to be moving beyond regular vocabulary instruction and think bigger!

"Vocabulary knowledge is knowledge. The knowledge of a word not only implies a definition, but also implies how the word fits into the world." (Stahl, 2000)

How do we "fit" vocabulary into a student's world. I have some ideas:

Student-friendly Definitions.  Packing definitions with words they have not yet learned serves no purpose. Creating student-friendly definitions that they can really own and understand puts them one step closer to really understanding a word.

Multiple Exposures.  We typically put a word on a student's vocabulary list and then that student rarely sees the word on a list again. Research indicates students begin learning a word, say "timid" in Grade 5, and need to continue learning that word until Grade 7. Continually exposing students to these words in a variety of contexts is important to vocabulary development.

Direct Instruction.  Too often we expect to give kids a list of words and activities and by the end of those activities, they should know the words. Biemiller (Perspectives, 2000) makes the case that direct instruction on specific words is important to vocabulary learning. "Planned (and contextualized) instruction is needed" and is especially true in the pre-reading years.

Start Earlier.  Too often we wait until kids are reading in Grades 3 and 4 before we begin vocabulary instruction, but the fact is children begin learning vocabulary much earlier. We should be "fitting" vocabulary instruction into the pre-reading years of

daily instruction.

Computer Technology.  Let's face it - kids today are tech savvy and know their way around a computer or tablet. If we want vocabulary to fit into their world, educational technology (edtech) needs to play a role. If the program is good, it engages the learner, broadens their word base and helps them learn words deeply in a variety of contexts.

Keeping vocabulary instruction fresh, changing up the way we present new words and "fitting" words into their lives rather than having them "fit" into our time-worn methods is how we improve vocabulary knowledge and ultimately reading comprehension skills.

We've developed InferCabulary Pro, a web-based visual program that provides user-friendly definitions using multiple images in a variety of contexts in a fun and engaging way.  Students are telling us we're "fitting" vocabulary instruction into their world in a way that works.