Monday, May 19, 2014

55 Words of the Common Core

Marilee Sprenger TEACHING THE CRITICAL VOCABULARY OF THE COMMON CORE—55 Words That Make or Break Student Understanding

Teaching the Critical Vocabulary of the Common Core is truly a brilliant read and Marilee Sprenger offers a multitude of engaging instructional activities teachers can incorporate into their daily routines. More importantly, Sprenger uses current knowledge on “What Does the Research Say about Vocabulary?” (Chapter 1). One of the key indicators of students’ success in school, on standardized test, and indeed, in life, is their vocabulary. The reason for this is simply that the knowledge anyone has about a topic is based on the vocabulary of that information (Marzano & Pickering, 2005).

So what words and when? Sprenger has broken down the critical words within the Common Core State Standards by verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. Although to teach students what they should know and be able to do requires the teacher to also consider the cognitive demand of each of these words. Sprenger has addressed this with grade recommendations starting in kindergarten.

At this point, it would be tempting just to share Sprenger’s list, but then it becomes a to-do list rather than a critical word crusade. Also the wealth of vocabulary activities she offers to teach each of the 55 words truly supports students understanding in a variety of ways. Although I must admit, the way I often see vocabulary taught isn’t always effective and Sprenger addresses this. She recommends using Marzano and Pickering steps outlined in Building Academic Vocabulary, Teacher’s Manual (2005) with each of these terns. A vocabulary lesson must include each of the following steps and with frequent opportunities to revisit and review.

The teacher explains the terms by modeling how to use the word with a think a loud.
Students “recode” the word, by putting the above information in their own words.
“If students cannot draw it, they really don’t know it”, Ruby Payne.
Engagement-engagement-engagement with a variety of activities, especially by writing.
Partner activities where conversations occur around the word supporting “storing” its meaning.
Playing games to actively store the word in the brain multiple ways.

Finally, whether you start big or small remember, to teach these critical vocabulary terms requires continuous classroom and school wide activities. In addition, learning these critical vocabulary will support students’ confidence in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Sprenger reminds us, “It’s never too late and it’s never too soon to get our students’ vocabulary growing.”

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