Visuals and Vocabulary

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Not knowing the meaning of a word while reading is a common occurrence in school particularly when the students are at the stage when they are "reading-to-learn" as opposed to "learning-to-read." As mentioned in the previous blog post, it is within this “reading to learn” stage that Tier 2 vocabulary becomes prominent. Tier 2 vocabulary’s significance lies in its foundational framework for reading comprehension. Research shows that looking up the word in a dictionary alone is not enough for the student to grasp an in depth understanding of the word (Wise, Sevcik, Morris, Lovett, & Wolf, 2007). An in depth understanding would give the students the tools to manipulate and use the word in a novel way such as in conversation or in writing.

Marzano (2009) provided a list of methods that targeted methods to provide a deeper understanding of novel vocabulary words to increase both receptive and expressive language skills. One of the most important methods involved having “students construct a picture, pictograph or symbolic representation of the word.” InferCabulary Pro not only emphasizes this particular aspect of vocabulary but takes it to another level by providing contexts associated with the pictures through captions and has interactive games that reinforce a word’s meaning.

As a speech-language pathologist who often incorporates vocabulary goals into her sessions, visuals are an important component of vocabulary learning particularly for students with language disorders. Visuals take away the language component that would normally be associated with a word and its definition. InferCabulary Pro provides a visually exciting means of accessing and inferring meaning of words commonly found in the curriculum.

Marzano, R. J. (2009). The art and science of teaching: Six steps to better vocabulary instruction. Educational leadership67(1), 83-84.

Wise, J. C., Sevcik, R. A., Morris, R. D., Lovett, M. W., & Wolf, M. (2007). The relationship among receptive and expressive vocabulary, listening comprehension, pre-reading skills, word identification skills, and reading comprehension by children with reading disabilities. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research50(4), 1093-1109.


The Magic of Words

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Here’s some literacy inspiration for your day....

One day in a Barnes and Noble, Malcom, a young man, was approached by a middle-aged woman who invited him to join her book club. He accepted the invitation and was soon the only male in a room full of women discussing books.

What's interesting about that? At the time he was a popular football player at University of Georgia and now he's a wide receiver for the Patriots....but that's not what inspires me. Here it is - he could only read at the junior high level when he entered college. He didn't develop an interest in reading until college and now he is a children's book author.

Malcolm Mitchell self-published his own children's book, The Magician's Hat about a magician "whose trick is showing children the magic power of reading."* His book is somewhat autobiographical and an inspiration to children. Malcolm said football was easy for him, but reading required work.

We know that two-thirds of students in the U.S. struggle with reading
and vocabulary is the building block of reading comprehension.

Literacy is important to us and we'd like to inspire kids across the country to find the magic of reading by tapping into the power of a strong vocabulary. We found that using language to teach words isn't working, so we use images in different contexts to help children learn vocabulary and then add the language.

Be a magician for your students and introduce them to InferCabulary Pro! Opening up a world of words can magically open up a world of books.

To see how InferCabulary works, view our demonstration at InferCabulary.com.

Questions?  Feel free to send us a question by e-mail at info@infercabulary.com or call 410-960-2444 and ask for me, Deena Seifert.

Deena Seifert, M.S., CCC-SLP
InferCabulary Pro
*http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/sec/2015/07/16/georgia-malcolm-mitchell-author-childrens-book/30236465/


The Tiers of Vocabulary

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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.


Does Vocabulary Matter?

Yes! Vocabulary DOES matter!

  • Research has show that kids need to understand 98% of the words they read to understand what they are reading.
  • Children who develop a rich vocabulary tend to be deeper thinkers, express themselves better and read more. Improving language and literacy skills early in life will help them be more successful academically and communicatively.
  • Successful communication is dependent upon a good vocabulary base. Using the right words when talking and "saying what you mean" makes you a more effective communicator.
  • Having a good vocabulary to draw from can help you write more effectively. Students need to use a more formal tone when writing and to do that, they need a richer vocabulary.

This holiday season treat yourself or someone you know to a better vocabulary. Visit InferCabulary.com to learn more about our new visual learning tools. A basic subscription is on sale for just $99 (20-students) and all subscriptions are 33% off through December.

Check out our InferCabulary Pro demo. Questions? email us at info@infercabulary.com or call 410-960-2444.

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Frequency Matters in Vocabulary Instruction

We've gotten into the habit of teaching a vocabulary with a "one and done" practice. Teach a set of words and then move on to the next list the following week. In fact, we should really be re-teaching vocabulary words, because frequency matters. When studying third graders, researchers found that "semantic and lexical knowledge accrues over time" (McGregor, Shane & Ball, 2007).

In order to improve the depth of vocabulary knowledge, repeated exposure to Tier 2 words is a must. Multiple exposures, allows a child to add more features and contexts to the words they are learning. It helps them to store words neurologically and continually refine that storage to include synonyms, word parts and other semantic features. Continually building on the knowledge of a word helps a child internalize the meaning and own it.

We need to change our vocabulary instruction model from a "one and done" to a continual learning cycle. Robust vocabulary instruction should be a continually evolving process that keeps students engaged while reinforcing their word knowledge.


Fostering Independent Vocabulary Skills

We all have a lot of tools in our vocabulary tool boxes as teachers and speech language pathologists, but one of the most important tools isn't necessarily in the box. It's in how we teach vocabulary. Helping students foster an awareness of how to independently learn new words they are reading is just as important as learning word meaning.

Motivate your students to grow their vocabulary skills and they will be better learners for it.

Talk in front of your student, doing a Think Aloud, so they can see how you process new words. Going through the process aloud you can talk about how your figure out the parts of the word and the context. Where might you have seen that word before? What examples can you think of and how would you use it in a sentence. If someone asked me, what would I say the definition of that word is?

Then have your students practice. Have your class work together to figure out the meanings of new words, so students can model for each other how the process works. It requires more interactions with your students and class, but isn't that what teaching is all about?


Top 5 Reasons Why Vocabulary Matters

There has been a big push the last 10-15 years to improve a student's vocabulary skills, but do you know why? Here are the top 5 reasons why vocabulary is so important:

1 It Improves Reading Comprehension. Research has shown that kids need to understand 98% of the words they read to understand what they are reading. Improving vocabulary skills will improve their understanding of novels and textbooks.

2 It's Important to Language Development.  Children who develop a rich vocabulary tend to be deeper thinkers, express themselves better and read more. Improving language and literacy skills early in life will help them be more successful academically and communicatively.

3 Communicating Ideas. Successful communication or "saying what you mean" is dependent upon a good vocabulary base. Using the right words when talking, makes you a more effective communicator.

4 Expressing Yourself in Writing. Having a good vocabulary to draw from can help you write more effectively. Students need to use a more formal tone when writing - not conversational language - and to do that, they need a richer vocabulary to tap into those words we don't use when we speak.

5 Occupational Success. Researcher Johnson O'Connor found that "a person's vocabulary level is the best single predictor of occupational success."* Success in the business place depends on your communication skills.

We've developed visual vocabulary tools to improve students' vocabulary skills K-12. Our iPad apps (InferCabulary and WordQuations) are on the APP Store and InferCabulary Pro will be ready for sale at ASHA 2016 in Philly. Take a minute to check them out.

*https://litemind.com/top-3-reasons-to-improve-your-vocabulary/

Deena Seifert, M.S., CCC-SLP

Co-founder, Communication APPtitude LLC


Students Creating Definitions

How do you define a word so that others understand? Students are expected to know how to do this, but many struggle to create definitions. They've "miss" the lesson either figuratively or literally. When working on definitions with students, I lay out 3 post it notes like this - only I use pictures instead of words for younger students.

I ask the student to say something about the word using guidelines from the post it notes. For example define the word KITTEN.

A kitten is a kind of thing is it? (category) animal/pet/baby animal. 
What does it do? (function) purrs, drinks milk, meows
What does it look like? (attributes) four legs, whiskers, tail, baby cat, different colors of fur

Practicing with a variety of nouns, now the student has a "road map" for how to define a word.  Helping students define/describe words is the first step in improving oral expression and a stepping stone to other explanations. It also helps them craft definitions for words in a way they can understand and store the information for future use.