Chapter ten talks a lot about how comprehension difficulties are often a result of not knowing the meanings of the words. I found this to be true with Adriana, my case study child. Since she is an ELL, she does not know what a lot of words mean which causes a lot of comprehension problems. Because of this, it is important to teach students vocabulary, but it has to be in a more meaningful way than telling them the definition or having them look it up in the dictionary. I am going to go through a number of strategies that the book discusses to solve this problem because I think that they are great sources, especially because I have seen some of them in action.
Incidental instruction is a very beneficial way to teach vocabulary. When this happens, it is not planned, but just happens naturally. When students come across an unknown word when they are reading, it is discussed right then and there. Gunning says, “The main advantages of the incidental approach are that students apply their knowledge immediately and can see a need for learning the new words.” I think this is one of the best ways because students can understand why they need to understand the work and it applies to them.
Another strategy that the book suggests, and one that I have actually been able to use, is to develop vocabulary through reading aloud. Students will be able to learn more words when they read aloud because they are reading and hearing the words. What I have found in my fieldwork experience is that students are more apt to ask what words mean when they are reading aloud. When they ask, this can lead to the next strategy which is to build on what students already know. This is completely necessary when talking about vocabulary and is probably the best way that students will be able to learn it. An example of this came up in fieldwork. Adriana came across the word ‘easel’ and asked me what that was. At first I tried to explain it to her by saying it a wooden frame that will hold your paper while you paint or draw, but she still had no clue so I knew I had to try something else. I decided to draw it for her (even though I am a terrible artist!) and once I showed it to her, she knew exactly what it was and even said, “Oh it’s that? I have one of those at home that I use!” As teachers, we just have to find that one little connection so that everything makes sense.