Teaching Reading Vocabulary, by Nicholson & Dymock

Teaching Reading Vocabulary, by Nicholson & Dymock (Education)

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Teaching Reading Vocabulary presents five research-based vocabulary strategies that every student can use: making use of context clues when reading; breaking words into meaningful parts and understanding the structure of the English language; creating vocabulary concept maps; exploring the multiple meaning of words and figurative language; and searching the dictionary and thesaurus to build knowledge of meanings, synonyms, antonyms and word origins.

This book will be useful for meeting the National Reading and Writing Standards and links to the Literacy Learning Progressions.

From: Teaching Reading Vocabulary, by Tom Nicholson Susan Dymock

Chapter 2 Words: The Core Ingredient in Language

Introduction

What is a word? This chapter will explore what it means to know a word and how words are learnt. We will also review the role vocabulary plays in reading comprehension, and in writing, listening and speaking.

Vocabulary and academic progress

Everyone knows that words are the core ingredient in language. Vocabulary knowledge is important for success in reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Nagy, 2007; Stahl & Nagy, 2006) and is strongly associated with success in school. The link between vocabulary knowledge and linguistic ability is very strong. What’s more, word knowledge is measured to determine intelligence levels. In fact the richer a person’s vocabulary, the more intelligence we attribute to them (see Anderson & Freebody, 1981, for a review; Stanovich, 2000).

Word knowledge is the core component of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test: 4 (PPVT4) (Dunn & Dunn, 2007), which is administered by researchers to determine the extent of receptive vocabulary. The results indicate the level of verbal ability. According to Anderson and Freebody (1981, p. 77), “The strong relationship between vocabulary and general intelligence is one of the most robust findings in the history of intelligence testing.” Admission into American law schools considers an extensive and rich vocabulary to be one of the most accurate indicators of potential academic and professional success. Vocabulary knowledge is necessary for effective oral and written communication, and for listening and reading comprehension.

It is all very well to talk about vocabulary and word knowledge, but how do we measure the size of someone’s vocabulary? Should we measure the words that we recognise when we hear or read something (receptive vocabulary), or should we measure the words that we produce in speech or writing (productive vocabulary)? This question has challenged researchers for decades. For one thing, measuring receptive vocabulary or productive vocabulary produces different results in terms of vocabulary size. People produce fewer words in productive vocabulary than they can recognise in their receptive vocabulary. According to McCrum (1987), Shakespeare’s vocabulary was about 30,000 words. However, this estimate is based on Shakespeare’s productive vocabulary, and so there are many words not found in Shakespeare’s writing that would probably have been in his receptive vocabulary. Bible and trinity, for example, are not found in Shakespeare’s productive vocabulary (Bryson, 1991).

What we do know is that competence in reading comprehension requires pupils to have an extensive vocabulary. Vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to reading comprehension. With unfamiliar words, or words not well understood, it is quite likely that pupils will attach a different meaning to them and comprehension may be affected: not necessarily overall comprehension, but precise comprehension. It is unlikely that one or two unknown words will affect the overall gist of the entire passage, but there are times when it is important to understand all the words. This is particularly evident in the complex secondary school classroom.

In the 1980s, Tom Nicholson and a team of researchers spent 18,000 minutes observing secondary students in their classrooms and conducting interviews. They found a “maze of confusion” (Nicholson, 1985, p. 515). This confusion was at all levels, from the very best readers to those experiencing reading difficulties. In one example the pupil had recorded the correct answer to a question on gravity but did not understand the concept. The researcher asked, “What’s gravity?” The pupil’s response was, “I don’t know.” The researcher continued, “What do you think gravity means? … You must have something in your mind. What do you think it means? (long pause). Can you tell me?” The student replied, “No” (Nicholson, 1985, p. 517).

Content area reading provides many challenges for pupils. If you don’t understand specific word meanings this can strongly undermine your comprehension. In content area reading the concepts are difficult, the sentences are long and complex and many students do not understand the vocabulary. Words can easily get in the way of learning. As one student explained, “You get lost when you gotta blimmin’ watch the damn words” (Nicholson, 1985, p. 519).

The impact of vocabulary is direct. If a word is unknown to the reader, then the reader must rely on contextual clues. However, research suggests that readers do not often correctly infer the meaning of a word from its context (Pressley, 2000). So when comprehension at the sentence or paragraph level depends on one or two unknown words, comprehension is at risk. To put it another way, comprehension depends on word-level processing (Calfee & Drum, 1986).

Beyond the age of 10, vocabulary knowledge is critical for academic progress. Before this, students are learning to read with accuracy and fluency the thousands of words that are already part of their listening vocabulary. As children progress through school they begin to face increasingly more complex language, and if they don’t know the vocabulary, their progress may well be hindered (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990; Pressley, 2006; Stahl & Nagy, 2006).

The word learner

Knowing the meaning of words presents a challenge for both readers and listeners. Many words have more than one meaning, words often represent abstract concepts and new definitions are added to existing words. As Labov (1973, p. 341) put it over three decades ago, “Words have often been called slippery customers, and many scholars have been distressed by their tendency to shift their word meanings and slide out from under any simple definition.”

“Slippery customers” and unknown words are frequent in all types and levels of printed material, from picture books to novels. For example, imagine that the day is coming to an end and you select a picture book to read to your six-year-old. The story has two characters, Amos, a mouse, and Boris, a whale (Amos and Boris, Steig, 1971). This family favourite is tattered and worn, but the magic of the story is as powerful today as it was nearly two decades ago. This story about friendship contains words that are most likely outside the vocabulary of most six-year-olds:

One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marvelled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all. (p. 7)

In the room next door a nine-year-old is reading Morris Gleitzman’s (2002) Boy Overboard. It is likely that this reader will also encounter unknown words. For example:

Dad’s always saying the desert’s been ruined by all the abandoned tanks and crashed planes and exploded troop carriers lying around, but sometimes war debris has its uses. (p. 9)

The science material the nine-year-old was reading earlier in the evening most likely contained unknown words. The Knowing Science book, Rudy (Buckland, 1992), the student was reading for his research project is about cockroaches: “I’m Rudy, The Survivor, proud descendant of the pre-historic cockroaches who scrunched on earth three hundred million years ago.” Other sentences provide similar vocabulary challenges: “And, clear as a bell, I heard the man call me Furtive. I have a feeling that means ‘stealthy’ and ‘secretive’. I’ll take it as a compliment.” Would descendant, furtive, stealthy, secretive and compliment be part of a nine-year-old’s vocabulary?

A young adult is reading Salman Rushdie’s (2001) Fury. This reader is also likely to encounter words that are not well known to them, as in:

His mother’s hockey-captain grin which no shadow of pain, poverty or doubt had ever darkened and which sat so incongruously below his paternal inheritance, the beetling, dark eye-brows reminiscent of untranslatable privations endured by his ancestors in the unglamorous town of Lodz. (p. 19)

How do words such as phosphorescent, luminous, akin, abandoned, debris, stealthy, secretive, descendant, furtive, incongruously and privations become part of our vocabulary? How many times must a reader encounter words before they are considered “known”? Just what does it mean to know a word? We turn to these questions now.

What does it mean to know a word?

This question is not easy to answer. Researchers vary in their definitions of what it means to know a word. According to Calfee and Drum (1986), knowing a word well involves:

depth of meaning; precise usage; facile access; the ability to articulate one’s understanding; flexibility in the application of the knowledge of a word; the appreciation of metaphor, analogy, word play; the ability to recognise a synonym, to define, to use a word expressively. (pp. 825–826)

Knowing a word does not occur after the reader’s first encounter. Rather, vocabulary knowledge occurs in stages. Knowing a word is not simply all-or-nothing.

Beck (1979, as cited in Graves, Slater, & White, 1989) suggests there are three levels of word knowledge:

•    level 1: unknown—words at this level are simply unknown

•    level 2: acquainted—at this level the meaning is recognised, with deliberate attention

•    level 3: established—at this level the meaning is easily, quickly and possibly automatically recognised.

Dale and O’Rourke (1986) have suggested four stages of word knowledge:

•    stage 1: never saw it before

•    stage 2: heard it but don’t know what it means

•    stage 3: recognise it in context as having something to do with …

•    stage 4: know the word well.

Thus Dale and O’Rourke’s stages 2 and 3 more or less expand on Beck’s level 2.

As this difference indicates, it is not clear how many stages there are in knowing a word, but what we do know is that knowing a word occurs in very small incremental steps over many exposures. Consider the word bright. It has numerous meanings, but it takes multiple exposures to the word bright to acquire all these meanings. (For example, The light is bright; The future looks bright; John is bright; Sarah has a bright personality; Turn on your bright lights.)

Stahl (1983, 1985, 1986) and Stahl and Nagy (2006) suggest that knowing a word means having both definitional and contextual information about the word. Definitional information is knowledge about relationships between the word and other words. This is rather like a dictionary definition. Contextual knowledge is knowledge of a core concept and how that knowledge is applied to different contexts. For example, the word eating means something a little different when eating an ice-cream cone, eating an apple or eating a scrambled egg. The ice-cream is normally licked, the apple is bitten in small chunks and the scrambled egg is eaten with the aid of a utensil (see Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986, p. 74).

Levels of word knowledge, or how well a word is known, can become apparent in specific contexts. In some contexts we seem to know a word well, but in other contexts we do not. For example, it is possible that we know the word earthquake in the everyday sense, but when chatting to a seismologist our understanding of the word may prove to be somewhat elementary. Likewise we may consider that our understanding of the word language is good until we are introduced to Noam Chomsky.

The first time an unknown word is encountered the reader has several options. One option is to skip the word. When encountering the occasional unknown word readers will skip it if it does not affect the overall gist of the passage. The reader, however, does store away one or more aspects of the word. That is, something about the word is remembered. It may be its spelling pattern or the context in which the word occurred. The reader may also search for familiar word patterns, such as known prefixes or word roots. After each encounter with the word the reader stores away more information until such time as the word is known. Multiple exposures to a word are critical if the word is to become part of the reader’s vocabulary.

Word knowledge grows at a fairly constant rate provided the reader is exposed to print. It is rather like a jigsaw. One piece of the puzzle does not result in a completed puzzle. Over time piece after piece are connected, and eventually the puzzle is completed. Likewise, our first encounter with a word does not result in knowing the word. However, with each encounter we store away in memory more information about the word until the word is known.

The reader faces a number of obstacles to increasing their vocabulary. Consider, for a start, the fact that many words are polysemous (have many meanings). Take the word ring. The following meanings do resemble one another but they are not identical:

•    John gave Sarah an engagement ring.

•    The boxer entered the ring well prepared for the fight.

•    Please put a ring around 26 June.

•    Alex replaced three ring-binders.

What does it mean to know the word ring? It means understanding its core meaning, but it also means having the ability to use the word flexibly. It means knowing the subtle changes in meaning between contexts. Not only does the reader need to know the dictionary definition, including synonyms and antonyms, but they also need contextual knowledge (Nagy, 2007; Stahl, 1983, 1985, 1986).

How many encounters before a word is known? McKeown, Beck, Omanson, and Pople (1985) found that reading comprehension was improved after 12 encounters with a word. However, 12 encounters does not necessarily mean that the word is known well. Nagy and Scott (2000) report that after 40 encounters with a word students have yet to reach a ceiling.

Carey and Bartlett (1978) carried out a simple experiment with three-year-old children. The children did not know the colour olive. Some children called olive brown and others referred to it as green. The authors found that a week after the pupils encountered the new word for olive they remembered that olive was not brown or green. They did not remember the new word, but they knew what it wasn’t; nor did they use green or brown.

Word learners are quick at recognising a new word. Words are then assigned to semantic categories (colour category, flower category, animal category, etc.). The next stage takes time. Indeed, for some words the next stage of learning the subtle or not-so-subtle differences between words never eventuates. The challenge word learners face is being able to be specific about words. For example, the word learner may know that a camellia and an azalea are both shrubs. The next stage is to distinguish one from the other when seen. Young New Zealanders may know that tui, kakapo and saddleback belong to the field of New Zealand native birds. The next stage would be being able to identify the birds in the bush.

Beck, McKeown, and Omanson (1987) (refer also to Beck & McKeown, 2007; Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002) suggest there are three tiers of vocabulary knowledge (as opposed to the stages or degrees of learning we looked at above). The first tier consists of basic everyday words. Words such as cat, dog, mother, father, chair, table, grass and so on are located in tier one. According to Beck et al. (1987), these words do not need to form part of the instructional word study programme for native English speakers because they are well known to the reader. The second tier consists of nonbasic words of high frequency. They are considered generalist words rather than words associated with a specific field (rather like the generalist knowledge a general practitioner requires compared to the specialist knowledge required of an ear, nose and throat doctor or a cardiologist). Instruction in tier three words is best left to when the specific need arises. Instead, instruction should focus on words in the second tier. Second-tier words include diligent, influential, procrastinate, distinguish, frequency, scavenger and unique. Knowledge of these relatively high-frequency words is necessary for general comprehension. The third tier consists of words with low frequency levels. These words are often associated with specific knowledge domains such as chemistry, biology, aviation or agriculture. Words such as photoperiodism (the cycles of plants in temperate climates), transgenesis (using genetic engineering techniques), gravimetric (weighing substances) and aviatrix (female aviator) belong to this third tier. Words in this third tier rarely occur in printed English, and knowledge of these words is not necessary for mature language users.

In summary, research shows that word learning is incremental. With each encounter with a word our knowledge about the word grows. The steps in knowing a word are very small. To know a word well requires many encounters in meaningful contexts. Part 2 of this book will outline practical strategies teachers can use to help their students develop more knowledge about words.

The role of vocabulary in reading comprehension

We have already noted in a general way the importance of vocabulary to reading comprehension, and the importance of reading comprehension to academic progress. In this section we will look in more detail at these connections.

According to the National Reading Panel (2000, p. 4–1):

Comprehension is critically important to the development of children’s reading skills and therefore their ability to obtain an education. Indeed, reading comprehension has come to be viewed as the ‘essence of reading’, essential not only to academic learning but to life-long learning.

But what is reading comprehension? To define reading comprehension would be to define reading, and this is very complex. Comprehension is associated with understanding and meaning. It is where the “meanings of words are integrated into sentences and text structures” (Juel, 1988, p. 438). Or, put another way, it is ‘the process by which, given lexical (i.e., word) information, sentences and discourses are interpreted’ (Gough & Tunmer, 1986, p. 7).

Reading comprehension is the ability to comprehend written language. Skilled reading requires skill in both decoding and comprehension (Gough & Tunmer, 1986). According to the simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986), the reader is one who is able to decode and comprehend the text. This includes understanding the text at the word level. Calfee and Drum (1986) have identified four components of reading comprehension, and vocabulary is one of these. Without vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension would not occur.

Dymock and Nicholson (2007) argue that reading comprehension occurs over several stages (see Figure 2.1). In order to comprehend written text, the reader must first decode the print. Next the reader looks up the words in their mental dictionary (or lexicon), after which they analyse the sentence to gain understanding. The reader must then grasp the main idea of each paragraph. Finally, they must understand the text as a whole.

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Gough and Tunmer’s (1986) simple view of reading includes only two components: decoding and linguistic comprehension. Decoding includes fluency and accuracy, while linguistic comprehension subsumes levels of vocabulary knowledge. The National Reading Panel (2000) has identified five essential components that are critical for reading success. They include the three subcomponents of decoding (phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency), vocabulary and text comprehension.

Knowledge of word meanings is critical to reading comprehension. Nagy and Herman (1987, p. 27) put it simply: “Children who know more words understand text better.” As a result, the number of words a reader knows provides a relatively accurate prediction of their ability to comprehend the text. Readers with large vocabularies will encounter fewer challenges when comprehending a story than readers with small vocabularies. As children progress through school they encounter more complex text. Text normally associated with content area reading places a high demand on vocabulary knowledge. Imagine a 15-year-old student preparing for a test on earthquakes. If the student has an understanding of words and phrases such as tectonic plate, fault line, seismic waves, tremors, tsunamis, seismometer, seismograph, epicentre, magnitude, energy and Richter Scale, then it is quite likely the test would not present any great challenges. However, if the words are unknown or are “blimmin’ getting in the way”, comprehension is at risk—as well as success in the test.

As Nagy (1988, p. 1) puts it:

Vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to reading comprehension; one cannot understand text without knowing what most of the words mean. A wealth of research has documented the strength of the relationship between vocabulary and comprehension. The proportion of difficult words in a text is the single most powerful predictor of text difficulty, and a reader’s general vocabulary knowledge is the single best predictor of how well that reader can understand text.

Overall, then, there is little debate over the importance of vocabulary in reading comprehension. In outlining the sources of comprehension failure, Perfetti, Marron, and Foltz (1996) list “word meanings” as one. They state, “The role of vocabulary [in reading comprehension failure] is obvious enough. A failure to understand words in text will cause problems in understanding the text” (p. 142).

How many words does the reader need to know? Nagy and Scott (2000) estimate that the reader needs to know the meaning of 90–95 percent of the words in the text for adequate comprehension. If a reader knows 90 percent of the words, they are able to use this knowledge to learn the remaining 10 percent. If the reader knows less than 90 percent of the words, comprehension is at risk. What’s more, the reader will have lost an opportunity to add to their lexicon. In other words, the reader is affected by a double whammy: they lose the opportunity to gain content knowledge and to add to their vocabulary.

For over eight decades researchers have acknowledged the strong relationship between vocabulary and reading comprehension (Thorndike, 1917), but it seems clear this relationship is causal. As Stanovich (2000, p. 182) puts it, “variation in vocabulary knowledge is a causal determinant of differences in reading comprehension ability”. It is possible to tease out further how this causal relationship works. Anderson and Freebody (1981) suggest three possibilities. The first is the instrumentalist hypothesis, which suggests that vocabulary knowledge enables the reader or listener to understand/comprehend. Hypothesis two (general aptitude) and hypothesis three (general knowledge) suggest that vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension are related to knowledge of the world. According to Hirsch (2003, p. 10), “reading comprehension requires knowledge of the words and the world”.

The role of vocabulary in listening and speaking

Although the focus of this book is on vocabulary and reading it is important to acknowledge the critical role vocabulary plays in listening and speaking. Listening comprehension is “at risk” if the listener does not know what the word/s mean. Senechal, Ouellette, and Rodney (2006, p. 177) refer to the “predictive role of vocabulary knowledge to listening comprehension”. In other words, vocabulary size is an indicator of listening comprehension. Children with smaller vocabularies will comprehend less. Children with a large vocabulary will comprehend more. Hart and Risley (2003) also acknowledge the critical role vocabulary plays in understanding. They found that vocabulary growth rates are strongly associated with cognitive growth rates.

The ability to follow directions, understand verbal instructions, comprehend oral text (e.g., radio, listening to the teacher read) partly depends on listening vocabulary. Receptive vocabulary (i.e., listening vocabulary) is used as a measure of verbal ability. According to Sternberg (1987) vocabulary knowledge is probably the best indicator of an individual’s verbal ability. A small listening vocabulary is a huge obstacle. A Year 4 class listening to their teacher talk about a wedding they attended over the weekend (e.g., toast the bride, groom, vow) will be cut out of part of the conversation if they do not know the meaning of toast, groom and vow.

Students are also “at risk” if they do not have the vocabulary to express themselves. Without adequate vocabulary they may not be able to communicate clearly or precisely with their teacher, friends, parents, their doctor and, in time, their employer. Without adequate vocabulary communication breakdown can easily occur.

What influences children’s vocabulary levels?

A possible explanation for individual differences in children’s vocabulary on entry to school is the amount of exposure to language that different children have, either through verbal interaction and listening to books read to them by their caregivers, or through other sources like television. The relationship between vocabulary and success in school is so profound and intricately linked that Hart and Risley (2003) refer to young children with relatively low vocabularies as “the early catastrophe” (p. 4).

Hart and Risley (1995) have shown that at school entry some children will know twice as many words as their classmates, and that as they progress through school this difference increases. Why does the gap in vocabulary, and in turn comprehension, increase? There are rich get richer effects in vocabulary learning in that the more words children have in their vocabulary the easier it is to learn new words because they have more knowledge to draw on. Likewise, there are poor get poorer effects in that the fewer words in their vocabulary, the fewer new words they will learn.

For example, imagine a group of 15-year-old students in a science class who have a science text to read. According to Nagy and Scott (2000), reading comprehension depends on knowing what the words mean and, as we have seen, they estimate that to comprehend a text readers must know between 90 and 95 percent of the words. Students with a good science vocabulary will comprehend the assigned chapter. Those who do not know the meaning of 90 percent or more of the words will not. Readers who know a lot of words will not only add words to their mental lexicon but will learn from the content they read as well. In other words, the rich get richer (Stanovich, 1986). Readers with a smaller vocabulary will experience difficulties comprehending not only what they read but also what they hear—and they will also acquire fewer new words than will readers with a larger vocabulary. A smaller vocabulary will in turn negatively affect their ability to communicate ideas in speaking and writing, compared with readers who have a larger vocabulary. These rich get richer and poor get poorer effects are called Matthew effects (Stanovich, 2000).

How can teachers go about bridging this gap between the vocabulary rich and the vocabulary poor? Blachowicz and Fisher (2000) and Stahl and Nagy (2006) suggest that some form of instruction is better than leaving vocabulary gains to incidental learning. In other words, the teacher can, and should, play an important role in vocabulary acquisition. This does not mean we should jump straight into teaching tier 3 words like stegosaur and lachrymose, because Biemiller and Slonim (2001) have shown that children learn words in a particular order.

Biemiller and Slonim’s (2001) findings suggest that root words are generally learnt in the same order by most children. They also report that by the end of Grade 2 (or eight to nine years) children making grade-appropriate progress will understand most Level 2 words, half of Level 4 words and a third of Level 6 words from Dale and O’Rourke’s (1981) Living Word Vocabulary. The Living Word Vocabulary outlines an order of word learning. This list is not exact, rather an indication based on Dale and O’Rourke’s (1981) research over two decades.

Biemiller (2005, p. 232) states, “The existence of a strong order in which words are acquired means that ‘individual differences’ are, in fact, mainly ‘developmental differences’ in that some words are harder to learn than others and require more maturity and depth of knowledge and vocabulary to come to grips with their meanings.” This makes sense in that we are much more likely to hear five-year-olds use words like cat rather than feline when describing their family pet, and they are much more likely to say old than anachronistic when describing the age of their parents. So in teaching, we are better off to focus on tier 2 words that pupils are going to find easier to learn. How best to do that is covered in later chapters.

Summary

This chapter has explored what it means to know a word, and how words are learnt. The chapter has also examined the crucial role that vocabulary plays in understanding what we read, as well as its importance in writing, listening and speaking. Whether we are producing vocabulary, as in speaking and writing, or comprehending vocabulary, as in reading and listening, our comprehension is completely dependent on knowing what words mean (Samuels, 1987).

The take home messages of this chapter are:

•    Not all children start school knowing the same number of words—some know lot more words than others.

•    Not all words are equally easy to learn, in that some words take more time and knowledge to get under our belts.

•    There are positive Matthew effects in learning new words in that the more words you already know, the easier it is to learn new words.

•    Exposure to language, through listening and interacting with others, especially caregivers, and through listening to stories, and reading stories yourself, is a great way to learn new words.

•    Teachers can help their class to learn new words but have to adjust teacher language to the language of the class, so as to connect new words to the words their class already know.

•    It is better to teach tier 2 words (primary school) before tier 3 words (high school); that is, try not to teach words like graminivorous (eating grass) and lugubrious (melancholy, mournful) to five-year-olds, at least not until the class has a grip on tier 1 basic words that will connect to these unfamiliar words, like grass and sad.

Fortunately, most writers of children’s stories and books are aware that there are tiers of words, so that teachers can ensure children are on the right track by organising for them to read text material that is written for their age level, and by talking with them a lot and listening to the words they use, so the teacher can connect the words their pupils know already to the learning of new words.

When is a good time to be learning tier 2 words? The answer is any time at all. Even at Year 1 of school, children will already be learning lots of tier 2 words (for example, pyramid when they study “the food pyramid”), and they will be writing sentences in their writing books made up from discussion with the teacher, such as “The food pyramid looks like a triangle. It has got six parts. It helps us to eat a variety of foods to keep us healthy.” Their sentences will have what are possibly unfamiliar words, like pyramid, triangle and variety. This is great—even five-year-olds can be learning lots of new words from their first weeks and months at school.

The trick is for the teacher to use strategies to help their students understand what these tier 2 words mean, and we will be discussing some “tricks”, that is, strategies, that the teacher can use when we look at the teaching of vocabulary in the following chapters.

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