Annette Bayetto from Flinders University, states in her paper entitled, Vocabulary that, vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to being an independent and successful reader and writer, and is comprised of the words that are understood when heard or read. She goes on to say that vocabulary knowledge can predict comprehension ability because a broad vocabulary allows students to process or discuss what they have read.
Last year at the EAL/D Vocabulary Reporting Forum held at Fairfield RSL Club I was inspired to undertake an action research project of my own on teaching vocabulary. The keynote speaker was Paul Dufficy (Teacher educator at University of Sydney and author of Designing Learning for Diverse Classrooms) who stated that the teaching of vocabulary is one of the most neglected areas in teaching. He also said that, the vocabulary in our curriculum is not found in everyday conversations. We will not acquire vocabulary without mindful conversations.
Annette Bayetto claims that, to really understand a word, students should be able to independently explain its meaning/s, give examples of non-meanings … talk about connections to other words, or, as is possible, to work it out using context, and to confidently use it across learning areas.
If you wish to read the research and ideas behind these claims, some of my readings are below. They include the article by Annette Bayetto, my notes taken from the EAL/D Vocabulary Reporting Forum and a paper written by Tina H. Boogren from the Marzano Research Laboratory on developing academic vocabulary.
According to Gregory S.C Hine, (University of Notre Dame Australia, Hine 2013), action research methodology provides those professionals working in the education system with a systematic, reflective approach to address areas of need within their respective domains. He cites Hensen as saying action research a) helps teachers develop new knowledge directly related to their classrooms, b) promotes reflective teaching and thinking, c) expands teachers’ pedagogical repertoire, d) puts teachers in charge of their craft e) reinforces the link between practice and student achievement f) fosters an openness to new ideas and learning new things and g) gives teachers ownership of effective practices. (Hensen, 1996)
It is for these reasons that I am formulating a Stage 3 program in the form of an action research project. I hope to improve the students’ literacy skills by systematically and explicitly teaching vocabulary using various strategies borrowed from Robert J. Marzano, Paul Dufficy and Joanne Rossbridge (PETAA Paper 196). My goal is to measure the effectiveness of these teaching practices by analysing student performance before, during and after this project. Hopefully with each round of lessons I can refine my teaching practices and improve student achievement in the learning of vocabulary and in particular, tier 2 vocabulary – those words that are used to embellish and emphasise and can be used in a range of contexts with multiple meanings.
My fear is that I will fall into the trap of not having clarity of focus for this project. The vocabulary needs of our students are so great and my time with the classes is limited to an hour a week. Paul Dufficy says that the criteria for my choice of words should be: Are they frequently used? Can they be worked with?
Whatever happens, if the first writing samples that were inspired from the rich text “Fire” by Jackie French and ABC Splash’s video Black Saturday about Victoria’s bushfires in 2009, are anything to go by, its going to be a rewarding an interesting exercise for all involved, students and teachers.