3 September 2015

Choosing The Right Words

As a staff we looked at Choosing the Right Words, a chapter in Using Literature to Enhance Writing Instruction by Rebecca Olness (2006).

Olness refers to precision in the use of words, or wordsmithery, as a trait that shows a love of words, alongside skill choosing just the right words to convey the intended meaning.

I like her reminder that it is not about students choosing the biggest or most unusual words, but the one that suits the mood or topic best. It is a matter of using everyday words precisely, as much as it is having an exceptional vocabulary.

She mentions research that's shown vocabulary can be acquired through incidental learning (NICHD 2000) but the key word here is 'can'. Without being surrounded by rich oral language or being exposed to words through wide reading, a student' vocabulary isn't going to be as expansive.

If students are reading below standard they are encountering fewer words again, further compounding the problem. Karen Belt talks about this in her blog e-xplore. It is a case of the Matthew effect, where the more able you are, the more likely you are to have rich dialogic discussions around rich content, and be reading a variety of texts with elaborate vocabulary.

The answer?
Reading regularly to students from books that expand their vocabulary and critical thinking.
One or our year 2 teachers, Laura Nalder, has a blog post on this very thing. I totally agree with her focus on modelling a love of reading and books, and providing rich book language  especially to those students who can't access it independently.

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