Classroom Ideas – Vocabulary

7th grade was a great year for us discovering and confirming great ideas for teaching Liam inferencing and writing in literacy. Over the next few days, I will be sharing these ideas.

Vocabulary requires explicit instruction.

In their book Word Nerds, Overturf, Montgomery, and Smith (2013) share how all students need to learn vocabulary through direct instruction. Students with high functioning autism must have explicit instruction to support their learning and processing, specifically to learn multiple or less obvious meanings of keywords in a text. To establish a routine for direct instruction, Overturf, Montgomery, and Smith (2013) recommend a six-step instructional plan derived from Robert Marzano’s (2009) research:

  1. Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term.
  2. Ask the student to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.
  3. Ask students to construct a picture, pictograph, or symbolic representation of the term.
  4. Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the term in their vocabulary notebooks.
  5. Periodically ask students to discuss the term with one another.
  6. Involve students periodically in games that enable them to play with the term.

If the approach to learning vocabulary, regardless of how fun and engaging, is not direct or explicit, students on the autism spectrum will not be able to incorporate what they have learned into their “word schema.”

Students with ASD can benefit from recording vocabulary verbally discussed words in a vocabulary journal. The journal can be a part of a reader’s or writer’s notebook. It could be hand-recorded, or more formal.

The key element is that the student is noticing and recording his or her exposure to the word, then visually and (possibly) kinesthetically (if drawing is involved), acting upon this information to add this word to their mental lexicon (dictionary).


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