Academic Vocab

Teaching Academic Vocabulary
English Language Learners
Where do we start?
Where do we start?
What academic words do we choose?
2007 FCAT short-answer Science questions:
released items for grades 5, 8, 11
Activity #1 Choose an appropriate FCAT Science example for your level.
Underline the words you would pre-teach as academic words.
Grade 5
Many animals live on the African plain and compete for the limited food supply.
Each type of animal, including the lion, the zebra, the antelope and the giraffe has
become adapted to a different niche within this environment. Select one of these
animals and describe a specialized trait. Explain how this trait helps it to survive.
Grade 8
Hipparchus, an astronomer in ancient Greece, proposed an Earth-centered model
of the solar system. In this model, the Sun, Earth’s moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars,
Jupiter and Saturn not only traveled around the Earth, but also traveled in small
circles called “epicycles.” A simplified illustration of Hipparchus’ solar system is
shown below. Explain how our current understanding of the solar system differs
from Hipparchus’ Earth-centered solar system.
Grade 11
During normal human metabolism, waste products are produced. One of the
waste products is carbon dioxide (CO2). Explain how carbon dioxide is removed
from the human body.
What do the colors in the Vocabulary Profiler mean?
Grade 8
Hipparchus an astronomer in ancient Greece proposed an Earth
centered model of the solar system In this model the Sun Earth moon
Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter and Saturn not only traveled around the
Earth but also traveled in small circles called epicycles A simplified
illustration of Hipparchus solar system is shown below Explain how
our current understanding of the solar system differs from Hipparchus
Earth centered solar system
Grade 11
During normal human metabolism waste products are produced One
of the waste products is carbon dioxide CO Explain how carbon
dioxide is removed from the human body
Analysis of Grade 5 example by online Vocabulary Profiler -- based on the research of Paul Nation
Many animals live on the African plain and compete for the limited food
supply Each type of animal including the lion the zebra the antelope and the
giraffe has become adapted to a different niche within this environment
Select one of these animals and describe a specialized trait Explain how this
trait helps it to survive
K1 Words (1000 most frequent):
K2 Words (1001 to 2000):
AWL Words (academic word list):
Off-List Words (specialized words):
The research:
1. Use frequency lists.
Paul Nation and Robert Waring: With a vocabulary of
2000 high-frequency words, a learner knows 80% of
words in a text.*
Nation divides vocabulary into three classifications:
(1) high frequency words
(2) general academic words
(3) technical or specialized words
* However, 95% of words must be known to infer meaning: (Liu & Nation
Isabel Beck: (2002) Both usefulness and frequency
should be considered for all students.
Three tiers of vocabulary:
– Tier 1: basic, short-easy words (see, water, up, how) August/
Snow add cognates to this basic level (map/mapa) for ELL’s who
speak Spanish
– Tier II: words that are critical to comprehension (every, while,
although, never, reduce, expand, define, boldly, timidly )
– Tier III: subject-matter-specific words (environment, trait)
Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction
2. Teach vocabulary explicitly
Kate Kinsella: (2005) Vocabulary is the single, strongest predictor of
academic success for second language students.
• The core of the achievement gap is a profound verbal gap, and to
narrow that gap we have to focus on teaching high-use academic
• Recommends direct vocabulary instruction for all struggling readers,
including ELL’s.
• Explicit steps for instruction include: pronounce, explain, give
examples, elaborate, review/assess student learning.
• To engage learners, use activities with constant evidence-checks –
i.e. written production (word charts, sentence starters), oral sharing,
gestures, partnering. Academic English must be explicitly taught. languageGap.pdf
Robert Marzano: (2004) Systematic, standards-based vocabulary
instruction helps build academic background knowledge -- the basis
for future academic achievement.
Recommends a consistent process:
(1) provide a description, explanation or example of the word
(2) ask students to restate your explanation in their own words
(3) ask them to draw a picture or symbol of the word
(4) review words bi-weekly through discussions and activities
(5) have students interact, play with words through games, and
keep a detailed vocabulary notebook
See Building Academic Vocabulary
3. Use repetition and multiple exposures.
Theresa Lively, Diane August, Maria Carlo Catherine Snow:
NIH /USDE vocabulary intervention research (2000) conducted with
Spanish-speakers and native English speakers in fourth and fifth
grades showed improved performance in three areas:
– knowledge of words taught
– knowledge about word analysis, and
– comprehension of texts including challenging words
The program included 12 new words/week --- taken from short
reading selections -- that students were likely to encounter
across different domains (advice, solution, annoyed…)
Word activities were designed to help children make semantic
links, infer meaning from context and use word analysis --roots,
affixes, cognates and morphological relationships.
Vocabulary Improvement Program and
4. Use rich oral language and extensive reading for
incidental learning
Z. O. Weizman and C. Snow: (2001)
Early oral language experience correlates directly with later reading
“A Focus on Vocabulary”
Diane August and Timothy Shanahan: (2006)
The research suggests that the disparity between word-level skills
(decoding, word recognition, spelling) and text level skills (reading
comprehension and writing) among language minority students is
oral English proficiency.
Developing Literacy in Second Language Learners; Report of the National
Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth: 2006
Steven Stahl and William Nagy (2006)
Vocabulary growth is like a pyramid with rich oral language and
word consciousness at the base
- The majority of time in a classroom should be spent on increasing
the breadth and depth of word knowledge through experiences with
language. This includes both wide reading and rich oral language.
- The smallest amount of time – the top of the pyramid – should be
spent in direct instruction.
Teaching Word Meanings, pp 50-57.
Jim Cummins: (2002)
Extensive reading of text is crucial for the expansion of vocabulary
knowledge and the development of academic language proficiency.
Psychometrically vocabulary knowledge is virtually indistinguishable
from reading comprehension.
Recommends using cognates to increase vocabulary for Spanish
speakers. 10-15,000 words in Spanish are easily transferred to
English. “Academic Language Development.”
What the National Reading Panel Says About the Role of Vocabulary in
Reading Instruction
1. There is a need for direct instruction of vocabulary items required for a specific text.
2. Repetition and multiple exposure to vocabulary items are important. Students should be given items
that will be likely to appear in many contexts.
3. Learning in rich contexts is valuable for vocabulary learning. Vocabulary words should be those that
the learner will find useful in many contexts. When vocabulary items are derived from content learning
materials, the learner will be better equipped to deal with specific reading matter in content areas.
4. Vocabulary tasks should be restructured as necessary. It is important to be certain that students fully
understand what is asked of them in the context of reading, rather than focusing only on the words to be
learned. Restructuring seems to be most effective for low-achieving or at-risk students
5. Vocabulary learning is effective when it entails active engagement in learning tasks.
6. Computer technology can be used effectively to help teach vocabulary.
7. Vocabulary can be acquired through incidental learning. Much of a student’s vocabulary will have to
be learned in the course of doing things other than explicit vocabulary learning. Repetition, richness of
context, and motivation may also add to the efficacy of incidental learning of vocabulary.
8. Dependence on a single vocabulary instruction method will not result in optimal learning. A variety of
methods was used effectively with emphasis on multimedia aspects of learning, richness of context in
which words are to be learned, and the number of exposures to words that learners receive.
(Reprinted from National Reading Panel, 2000, p. 4-4)
Important Footnotes for ELL’s
• For ELL’s a rich ORAL language foundation is key.
• For ELL’s we must also explicitly teach high-frequency
words and important content words
• For ELL’s who speak romance languages like Spanish or
French, it is important to teach cognates as a connection
to academic English.
So where do we start when teaching academic vocabulary to English
language learners?
Start with frequency lists. The 2000 highest frequency words in
English comprise 80% or more of text.
Choose academic words that cross domains (Tier 2 words).
In content subjects, include key technical words (Tier 3 words).
How should we teach these academic words?
Build a base of rich oral language.
Teach vocabulary explicitly and actively, building
connections through cognates and prior knowledge.
Provide multiple exposures through engaging materials.