Historically, vocabulary was taught as an adjunct to formal reading assignments. If the student encountered a word in required reading that he/she did not know, the requisite program was to:
- Write down the word on a sheet of loose leaf paper
- Look it up in the dictionary
- Write down the definition
- Continue reading
It is my personal belief that students need not learn from a predetermined list, but rather that they understand how to take any word apart to discern its meaning. My colleagues and I, from fifth grade through eighth, believe strongly in the power of teaching Greek and Latin root words. We continue to teach vocabulary as well. We use the tried and true Sadlier-Oxford series, designed specifically to prepare students for the SAT. The program does an excellent job of exposing youngsters to more abstract linguistics and requiring that they be able to discern differences between words with subtle variation in meaning. Being able to be specific in writing and reasoning is one of the core skills we strive to teach in Language Arts.
I often feel, though, that our time might be better spent seeking the words in our literary environment rather than from a pre-determined list. I include as part of my curriculum that students find the vocabulary words in context outside of the classroom. Students know to be looking or listening for them in their textbooks, on TV, on the radio, in conversation - anywhere. As my AP, Jeff Rothstein (@jetteryderdad) reminded me, six exposures are what we need for that word to "stick." But what if we present the language in reverse? Would our net effect be improved, decreased, or irrelevant? Would students have equal or greater success with vocabulary acquisition and usage if the lists came FROM the students rather than delivered TO them? Is there an advantage to the current methodology? I'm a proponent of student choice. What If I went Old School and allowed a student's own exploration to determine vocabulary acquisition? I welcome any and all feedback, including any sources of reference regarding previous studies in this area of education, as well as your own classroom experiences.