Vocabulary: Not just for ELA class
By Robyn Kehoe Ramsey and Megan Motley
No matter the content area, explicit vocabulary instruction is essential for student success. While it is by no means a panacea, strong connections between vocabulary acquisition and literacy, equity, and positive outcomes for students are clear. We must consider that when we test students’ reading comprehension, we may actually be testing their vocabulary and background knowledge and unintentionally preventing them from showing what they really know and can do (Willingham, 2017). Since vocabulary knowledge is directly linked to student success in school, it is well worth considering why and how every teacher should be teaching vocab.
Vocabulary acquisition is directly linked to equity. By first grade, higher socioeconomic groups are likely to know twice as many words as lower socioeconomic groups (Neumann & Wright, 2014), and we all know now that most children are never able to close that gap, negatively impacting their outcomes all the way through high school. “It is now well accepted that the chief cause of the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups is a language gap” (Hirsch, 2003). Therefore, it is incumbent upon us all -- not just upon ELA teachers -- to be intentional about vocabulary instruction.
How NOT to teach vocab:
How to teach vocab:
Which words to teach?
Consider that vocabulary words in any discipline can be divided into three Tiers (not to be confused with the Tiers of MTSS!). Tier 1 words are basic words in common use (“chair,” “phone,” “lion”). Tier 2 words are academic words that students encounter across contents (“analyze,” “evidence,” “theme”). Tier 3 words are content-specific (“metaphor,” “perpendicular,” “renaissance”). Tier 2 and Tier 3 words need to be explicitly taught as they influence students’ ability to understand and learn new content and concepts. Proficiency Scales are an excellent place for teachers to find specific vocabulary on which students should focus and build their knowledge.
“Teaching vocabulary will not guarantee success in reading … However, lacking either adequate word identification skills or adequate vocabulary will ensure failure” (Biemiller, 2005). Because vocabulary knowledge is so clearly linked to reading comprehension, as well as issues of equity for all students, teachers -- ALL teachers -- should consider how they are explicitly teaching the words students need to build a strong foundation for success in every content area.
Want to explore more ways to teach vocab? Check out this resource!
Biemiller, A. (2005). Size and sequence in vocabulary development: Implications for choosing words for primary grade vocabulary instruction. Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice.
Hattie, J. (2018) 252 Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student achAchievement. Visible Learning. https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/
Hirsch, E.D. (2003) Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge of Words and the World. American Educator. https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Hirsch.pdf
Moore, D. (n.d.) Why Vocabulary Instruction Matters. Best Practices in Secondary Education. https://ngl.cengage.com/assets/downloads/edge_pro0000000030/am_moore_why_vocab_instr_mtrs.pdf
Neumann, S. and Wright (2014). Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Childhood Classroom. American Educator. https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2014/magic-words
Willingham, Daniel (2017). The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.
Secondary ELA- Proficiency Scales (prioritize, pace and plan)
By Micah Schutte
As you may know, the Secondary ELA YAAGs look quite different from how they have looked in past years (please see our blog post from March 31st for more information on how they are organized now).
This year, teachers can use the Proficiency Scales as a way to help prioritize content. There are twelve proficiency scales in each grade level from 6th -12th grade in ELA.
The documents below list the Units of Study by grade level and the corresponding Proficiency Scales to be assessed. A couple of reminders:
What is Disciplinary Literacy?
By Toni Bower, Disciplinary Literacy Coordinator
There are many different definitions of Literacy, but all with the same basic thoughts. Literacy is the ability to use language arts in combination with speaking and listening skills to understand and use information in different ways. In other words, literacy is to read, write, speak, listen and think critically about information and apply or share the learning in writing or orally.
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) states, “Tim Shanahan and Cynthia Shanahan, in their article “What Is Disciplinary Literacy and Why Does It Matter,” contend that disciplinary literacy emphasizes the knowledge and abilities possessed by those who create, communicate, and use knowledge within the disciplines. It honors the thinking within disciplines of study and invites students to engage in the academic discipline while developing a voice as a member of that community.”
Literacy instruction is fundamental across contents and grade levels. According to the Common Core State Standards, (CCSS), “The Standards insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school. Standards for K-5 include expectations for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language applicable to a range of subjects, including but not limited to English Language Arts (ELA). Standards for grades 6-12 are divided into two sections, one for ELA and the other for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. This division reflects the unique, time-honored place of ELA teachers in developing students’ literacy skills while at the same time recognizing that teachers in other areas must have a role in this development as well.” The intent is for the standards for ELA to be integrated into all content areas. And, as the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction indicates, “The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Literacy in Science, Social Studies, History, and the Technical Subjects are connected to College and Career Readiness Standards that guide educators as they strive to help students meet the literacy challenges within each particular field of study. This national effort is referred to as disciplinary literacy.” (“Literacy in all Subjects”, 2019).
Often the terms Discipline Literacy and Content Literacy are used interchangeably, but they are different. Content Literacy is generally explained through the lens of reading that “tends to emphasize the teaching of a generalizable set of study skills across content areas for use in subject matter classes” (Shanahan & Shanahan 2012). An example of this is with comprehension strategies. “Thus, although researchers may examine the use of a comprehension strategy, such as the use of paraphrasing, within the context of science text, the effectiveness of such a strategy within science reading would not make paraphrasing a discipline-specific reading strategy. There is nothing about paraphrasing itself that is special to reading science texts; rather, one would find paraphrasing to be as useful in the reading of any text of similar difficulty and correspondence with readers’ background knowledge.” (p.9). In contrast, “Disciplinary literacy has been defined as ‘‘the use of reading, reasoning, investigating, speaking, and writing required to learn and form complex content knowledge appropriate to a particular discipline’’ (McConachie & Petrosky, 2010, p. 6).” (Spires, et al., 2018, p. 1402)
There are many resources available for educators to use to help guide them through integrating ELA with the other contents. Disciplinary Literacy is more than just pulling a science or social studies article in the reading class, or saying that students are writing in their core content classes.
Fundamentals of literacy begin at the early learner levels. The foundational skills are then continuously developed and defined as children progress through their academic careers. College and career readiness standards are also interwoven with Disciplinary Literacy. In Jeffco, we want our students to have the skills necessary to be successful in whatever paths they choose.
It is important for every teacher in every content area to be aware of and to carefully consider the literacy of their discipline. By highlighting specific ELA standards which many contents see as foundational, teachers can have a starting place in identifying the literacies connected to their disciplines. Building on the foundational skills of K-5, ELA standards will enable teachers of all grade levels to use high leverage literacy skills in ways specific to their contents. “Elementary classroom teachers build the foundational literacy skills necessary for students to access all learning. Additionally, they develop content specific to deep literary study, oratory tradition and linguistic analysis; skills specific to English language arts. Literacy reaches beyond this knowledge in one content area to include reading, writing, listening, speaking and thinking critically in each discipline beginning at an early age.” (“Literacy in all Subjects”, 2019).
Disciplinary Literacy and the 2020 Colorado Academic Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cde.state.co.us/coreadingwriting/disciplinary-literacy
English Language Arts Standards " Introduction " Key Design Consideration. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/introduction/key-design-consideration/
Literacy in all Subjects. (2019, January 14). Retrieved from https://dpi.wi.gov/standards/literacy-all-subjects
Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2012). What Is Disciplinary Literacy and Why Does It Matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32(1), 7-18. doi:10.1097/tld.0b013e318244557a
Spires, H. A., Kerkhoff, S. N., Graham, A. C., Thompson, I., & Lee, J. K. (2018). Operationalizing and validating disciplinary literacy in secondary education. Reading and Writing, 31(6), 1401-1434. doi:10.1007/s11145-018-9839-4
Course: 2020 Colorado Academic Standards Implementation, Topic: Module 1: It's Not Rocket Science
Course: 2020 Colorado Academic Standards Implementation, Topic: Module 2: Are You Literate?
Curriculum Changes Overview PK-12
If you are looking for a quick overview of the curriculum changes to come in all content areas for the 2020-2021 school year consider checking out this video.
Secondary ELA Curriculum Update
Grades 6-11 Year-at-a-Glance Revisions
Grade 12 Year-at-a-Glance Revisions
Grades 6-12 ELA Reading Units of Study Revisions
Grades 6-12 ELA Writing Units of Study Revisions
Your Secondary Literacy TOSA’s are here to support you:
MICAH SCHUTTE, 6-12 LITERACY TOSA
TIFFANY WRIGHT, 6-12 LITERACY TOSA
Curriculum & Instruction