Wednesday, May 8, 2013

List, Group, Label:
Using a Vocabulary Strategy to Generate Interest and Increase Comprehension

This vocabulary strategy can be used with any challenging text to meet the following objectives:
  • To increase comprehension by introducing students to vocabulary prior to reading a challenging informational text
  • To generate students’ curiosity and interest in a text by inviting them to share what they know about the vocabulary
  • To aid students in remembering and reinforcing new words
  • To increase comprehension by engaging students in predictive class discussions before delving into the reading of an informational text
  • To activate students’ prior knowledge on a topic
  • To set a meaningful purpose for reading to help increase students’ motivation to read

Strategy Procedure:

  • Generate students’ interest and enthusiasm by telling them that you have a challenge for them.  
  • Explain to students that today they are going to read a challenging informational text, but just because this text is challenging, it shouldn’t stop them from reading, enjoying, and learning from it.  Instead, let’s step up to the challenge and work together to tackle the reading.  First, let’s get our brains ready to read by activating and building our background knowledge.  Sometimes reading an informational text can seem dull and difficult.  But if you know a little something about the article before you begin reading, you can get the edge you need to comprehend the text.
  • Prior to the lesson, select from the text a list of about 20-30 words that are essential to students’ understanding of the main idea of the text.  While choosing the words, try to make sure they could be grouped into categories.  Also, chose a couple of words that do not easily fit into obvious categories in order to challenge the students’ thinking about the categories. 
  • After passing out the word lists, read each word aloud to students so that they all know how to say the word—even if they are not familiar with its meaning.  Ask students to look over the words for a moment to determine which words are familiar to them.  Ask students to speculate on the meanings of the words they do not know and explain what clues they can use to figure out the meanings. 
  • Encourage students to start thinking about the words and the possible relationships among them.  Explain to students that if we become more familiar with the vocabulary in the text, we can tap into our background knowledge, stimulate our thinking, and prepare to read purposefully.
  • Explain to students that in just a moment, we will start grouping these words into categories

Model the Strategy 
  • To model this strategy, begin grouping together some of the words for students while thinking aloud about your thought process.
  • Next, arrange the students into groups of three and have them continue organizing the words and labeling the groups.  Provide students with the following written and oral guidelines: “If you are not sure which group a word belongs to, just make your best guess.  Use the input and shared knowledge of your group members to make a hypothesis.  We aren’t trying to figure out the right answers; instead, we are just making educated guesses.  After we read the article, you will have an opportunity to regroup your words.” 
  • As the students work, walk around the room from group to group, encouraging students to discuss the reasons for putting words in a particular category and to challenge their own thinking. 
  • While listening to groups, help guide their thinking by asking questions such as, “Why do you think these terms seem to go together?  What other label could you use?  Are there other words that could be added to this category?” 
  • Give students ample time for discussion and hypothesizing before asking them to share out to the entire class.
  • When the groups finish categorizing and labeling words, have them share their lists with the entire class.  While each group presents their lists, encourage them to explain their rationale for the categories and labels.

Provide Independent Practice
  • Explain to students that the categories they created in their groups are their predictions for how these words might be related in the article they are about to read. 
  • As students read the article on their own, have them check these predictions by rearranging their lists based on the information they learn from the article. Explain to students that they may also want to change the category labels or rethink their rationale for grouping certain words together.
  • Help students understand that checking their hypotheses is their purpose for reading and can help them stay focused and engaged while working through the text.

  • Allow students time to reconnect with their groups to discuss the misconceptions they initially had regarding the words and their relationship to each other.  Encourage students to cite the information from the article that helped changed their thinking about the words.
  • For homework, have students write a summary of the article using words from the list.

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