Classroom Ideas – Systematic Approach to Vocabulary

words

Students also need systematic vocabulary instruction. Overturf, Montgomery, and Smith (2013) mention the systematic approach of Beck, McKeown, and Kucan’s (2002) five-day plan for “robust vocabulary instruction” (p. 17). They also outline Michael Graves’ (2006) four-part vocabulary program, which has been successful with a variety of students who struggle to learn vocabulary words:

They also outline Michael Graves’ (2006) four-part vocabulary program, which has been successful with a variety of students who struggle to learn vocabulary words:

  1. Provide rich and varied language experiences
  2. Teach individual words
  3. Teach word-learning strategies
  4. Promote word consciousness.

Frey and Fisher (2009) recommend teaching vocabulary intentionally, transparently, by making words usable, personal, and a priority. Finally, Overturf, Montgomery, and Smith (2013) offer their own model for how to teach vocabulary systematically:

Finally, Overturf, Montgomery, and Smith (2013) offer their own model for how to teach vocabulary systematically:

  1. Individual Word Instruction
  2. Word Learning Strategies
  3. Word Consciousness
  4. Rich and Varied Language Experiences

The teacher needs to choose a routine or system that best matches his or her classroom environment and teaching style, and stick with it. Especially with students on the autism spectrum, clear and consistent expectations will give these students confidence and a predicable structure to rely upon. Systematic routines support any executive functioning needs the student has.

Especially with students on the autism spectrum, clear and consistent expectations will give these students confidence and a predictable structure to rely upon. Systematic routines support any executive functioning needs the student has.

Adding to our Teacher’s Toolbox

Teaching students with ASD about word tiers also support executive functions. It scaffolds for a learner how to think about the types of words that they need to learn.

Tier 1 words are basic vocabulary words that do not have multiple meanings. Knowing the characteristics of Tier 1 words gives students specific feedback about how these words operate in any text.

Tier 2 words are general academic words that students will come across throughout their day, especially in their different content area classes. These are the words teachers should focus a student’s daily attention on learning.

Tier 3 words are domain-specific. Teachers explain that students only need to know these words while learning certain subject matter. When students see Tier 3 words, they need to recall background information specific to that topic, which includes the Tier 3 vocabulary or technical words used with that content.

Knowing how works are categorized in this way creates for students a foundation for word consciousness. Word consciousness, an awareness and curiosity about how words operate within our language, is our goal toward which older students can work.

This can be facilitated by having students rate their initial understanding of or prior exposure to a word (I know it well, I sort of know it, I’ve heard of it, I have not heard or seen this word before).

Due to weak central coherence, students on the autism spectrum will not check in with their familiarity with a word automatically. Having a rating system built into the vocabulary learning routine or notebook will remind students to notice if they have previous experience with a word and if this current exposure will reinforce or add additional information to what they already know, or will establish an understanding of the word for the first time.

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