Posted on 04/25/2012 at 07:34 AM by Global Reach

In early childhood, we know the importance of early learning. Young children very quickly learn new information along with new words and they do it QUITE QUICKLY! It is always amazing at how new words start to pop up all over and keep building as young children explore the world.

What becomes critical is the role, we, as teachers, play in supporting young children by setting up appropriate experiences, providing new and intriguing materials and using thought-provoking questions to move them to new awareness. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (2009) states that “at the HEART of good instruction is an informed teacher.” The question then becomes, what do I, as the teacher, do each day to be informed about the children in the program. In two recent article, “Supporting Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Learning” by Tanya Christ & X. Christine Wang (Young Children, March 2012) and “Teaching Vocabulary in Storybooks: Embedding Explicit Vocabulary Instruction for Young Children
by Elizabeth J. Spencer, Howard Goldstein, & Ruth Kaminski (Young Exceptional Children, March 2012),  teachers can become “informed” using 2 approaches to support vocabulary building. Both articles emphasize the following components: identify words children in the classroom are unlikely to know, choose a small set of vocabulary words on which to focus, and then determine methods, activities and materials that best support building vocabulary with the students. Being intentional not only means using words and having a variety of experiences from which to gain understanding of those words, but also planning on extended experiences so children hear and use the words on a regular basis. Some children need additional practice and can best be served when “vocabulary building” is imbedded in daily routines and instruction. For these children, including students with developmental delays and students learning a second language, as well as students with limited experiences, the instructional becomes critical for them to develop background knowledge potentially preventing reading difficulties later.

Assessment is KEY to knowing and understanding where to begin the instruction process. So, using current observation and assessment information, both formal and informal, is key to enhancing planning and instruction. Some key strategies highlighted are (Christ & Wang, 2012):
•    Pointing and labeling: draw attention to word while saying it and pointing to written word.
•    Eliciting questions: ask comprehension questions that have children use new words.
•    Non-Eliciting questions: ask comprehension questions that encourage children to use information related to the word’s meaning, not just use the word.
•    Brief Definitions: use brief, child-friendly definitions of the word’s meaning.
•    Extended Approaches: opportunities for children to develop understanding of the word’s meaning.

Finally, both articles relate current information about vocabulary development that impacts what is done each day in the classroom. Some research shows:
•    Children who have not developed a vast repertoire of words by time they reach upper grades may experience reading and academic difficulty.
•    Especially critical for children from families with low income, children with speech and language difficulties, and dual language learners.
•    Children need to have instruction that supports vocabulary growth.

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