Sunday, February 7, 2010

More on Vocabulary and Reading Aloud

I know I have been talking about the decoding aspect of reading and have kind of gone on a side trip with vocabulary, but all of reading is so intricately intertwined, that strategies overlap and kids will get the benefits in all areas.

Today I want to suggest something that I don't typically hear teachers suggest. In second/third grade, as kids are getting into chapter books and have that 20-30 minute daily reading HW requirement, parents will tend to "take turns" reading with their children in the chapter book they are reading. This is fabulous, don't get me wrong. I think that is a very good thing to do for a number of reasons - it will aid comprehension because they are not working on the decoding aspect, they will hear fluent reading modelled, and they will enjoy spending time with their reader.

But here's my thought. Instead of reading aloud portions of your child's chapter book to them, get a picture book and read that with them. Count it as part of their reading time, but let them read the chapter book on their own with you listening, or silently.

Here's why. Picture books are FABULOUS for vocabulary. They are chock full of great descriptive words and words that are content related...WITH picture support. You will hear many teachers say that kids can't relate to certain concepts and learning because they haven't had the experience. But I beg to differ. There are many kids who, if their minds are actively getting those pictures from books, will understand things.

Let me be more specific. I know that there are many inner city kids I taught in LAUSD who had never been to the beach. So if I was trying to teach them about the ocean, or about different geography, their experience would be limited. There are several things teachers try to do. They bring in actual sand, they play music sounds of the ocean, they show videos...but I also suggest that they get great books with the beach as the setting, or nonfiction books with some great pictures of the beach.

Think about Nicholas, my one year old. He doesn't know what all the taxi, trucks, diggers, etc. are in his books yet, but that doesn't limit him. He learns to name them. To put a label with the pictures he sees in his word books.

Picture books are incredibly difficult to read too. I cringe when I see struggling first graders loaded with picture books rather than early readers, because I know the difficulty the vocabulary will pose.

So here's your opportunity to introduce that vocabulary. I am going to do it with the Valentine Fancy Nancy with my little reader, "A" on Weds. I know a few things here.

"A" is reading chapter books, but reading aloud the whole time is challenging, and tiring.
She loves girly things.
Fancy Nancy is a great fun read (with lots of pink).
We are a few days away from Valentine's Day, so it is on her mind.
Fancy Nancy contains lots of great vocabulary that I can introduce to her and we can get picture support from.

On one page, Nancy is putting together an "ensemble" - Ya think a Kindergartener is going to know how to say the word, much less know what it means? This is going to be the perfect opportunity for me to teach her a new word.

In the next few days, I am going to talk about context clues...getting at the meaning of the word by looking at what's around it in the text.

Again, today - try letting them fly with the chapter books. Get a good picture book, let them sit back and just put those pictures to motion in their minds. Point out those new vocabulary words that they can't say and don't know. Make them look at the word. Make them look at the pictures.

You'll be pleasantly surprised at how often those vocabulary words will start cropping up in their chapter books later...and now they will have had exposure to them!

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