ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: Teach Mama: Creating Word-Conscious Kids

Monday, May 17, 2010

Teach Mama: Creating Word-Conscious Kids

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We shouldn't try to fill every second of our children's lives with learning and lessons; our kiddos really do need time for free play indoors or out in the fresh air every single day. However, it never hurts to sneak in a little-teeny lesson during read-alouds, especially since many of us read to our children several times a day.

Even before children are able to read texts on their own, they can develop vocabulary, oral language, comprehension strategies, phonological awareness, and print awareness just by participating in a read-aloud with an adult.

For this series, I'll highlight some ways to develop each of the above areas in super-simple--but very worthwhile--ways.

Here are just a few ways of developing Vocabulary during read-alouds:
  • Vocabulary Development--Word Consciousness: Before, during, and after reading, we have a captive audience during read-alouds. Why not use this time to model how excited we are when we come across the use of rich and descriptive language?
By sharing our love of words and talking about new and exciting words, we are teaching our children to become Word Conscious. Word Consciousness is an integral component of language development and one of the early predictors of success in reading comprehension.

We can develop Word Consciousness by stopping during a read-aloud and commenting on a particularly awesome, unusual, or interesting word we encounter: Oh, I love that the farmer 'perseveres' after the fire ruined his farm. He doesn't give up. He keeps going, he re-plants his crops, and he moves forward. I love the word 'perseveres' because I like how it sounds when I say it, and it is a strong word. It means that someone doesn't give up and that they work very hard (re: The Farmer, by Mark Ludy).

Or when reading Steven Kellogg's Is Your Mama a Lama? you might say, The bat says he 'does not believe that's how llamas behave.' I sometimes like to use the word 'believe' instead of the word, 'think'. To me, 'believe' just sounds a little fancier. I 'believe' I prefer the word 'believe' instead of 'think'.

You can also develop Word Consciousness by:
  • talking about the way a word sounds when you say it;
  • discussing the meaning of a word;
  • talking about the way a word looks on the page;
  • trying different ways of using a particular word;
  • challenging each other to use a 'new word' later that day;
  • listening for 'new words' during other read-alouds and taking turns 'catching' them;
  • sharing 'new words' as a family, at the end of the day or at dinnertime;
  • keeping a family list of 'Cool, New Words' or becoming 'Word Wizards' and making a 'Word Wizard Wall' of words you love. . .
Word Consciousness can be started with our littlest readers and should continue into adulthood. (Okay, or at least until our kids can stand it!). It's easy, it's important, and it promotes a love of language and an awareness of language that will ultimately help strengthen reading comprehension down the road.

When children are word conscious, they "are motivated to learn new words and able to use them skillfully"
(Lane & Allen, The Vocabulary Rich Classroom: Modeling Sophisticated Word Use to Promote Word Consciousness and Vocabulary Growth, in February 2010's The Reading Teacher.) So let's start noticing words--and keep talking about it!

Next up: Developing Oral Language During Read-Alouds

You can find more on this topic and others over at teachmama, where Amy shares the ways she sneaks a little bit of learning into her children's every day. . . or as often as she can with a 6, 4, and 3 year old. Or join her--and many other ABC & 123 friends--at we teach where they're chatting up a storm, sharing ideas, and learning a little themselves.


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