Saturday, December 1, 2012

Visualization and Comprehension Pt 9

Oral  vocabulary is one of the most important contributors to children's reading, academic development, and progress through school. It is a significant indicator of success at school. However, it has been estimated that the size off children's receptive flexibility can vary quite considerably. Children with poorer vocabularies may have as many as 4000 fewer words in their mental lexicon than children starting school from homes where parents regularly interact with their children and provide rich language experiences. As a result, children entering school with larger vocabularies tend to have less problems with reading, read more, and learn more new vocabulary through their extensive reading experiences. In contrast, children who have poorer vocabularies tend to have more difficulty learning to read, read less, and fall behind their more successful classmates in acquiring new words.

Produced using 'Wordle'

At school good readers learn a vast amount of new vocabulary incidentally as they read. They are able to use the context to help them decipher new meanings for new words and add them to their mental lexicons as they read. However, many children struggle with reading and this word learning process becomes quite difficult for them. In response to this, it is necessary for some direct teaching of  vocabulary in the classroom.

I have been working on an article for a professional journal about teaching vocabulary in the classroom.     While doing this I came across an article  by Mark Sadoski called "A dual coding view of vocabulary learning" (see below). This was very timely as it gave some insights on how 'Dual Coding' theory can contribute to the teaching of vocabulary (as well as fitting neatly into this blog series).

According to Sadoski, words are verbal labels for concepts, their meanings and even pronunciations  are determined by their connections to a variety of other words. However some words are easier to learn than others. For example, words like 'sofa', are more concrete and are generally easier to imagine than words that those that are more abstract,  such as the word 'justice'. This notion supports dual coding theory because it demonstrates that people use different coding systems to encode the words. Concrete words tend to be associated with imagery while abstract words depend primarily on the web of verbal associations for their meaning.

One particularly effective direct teaching method for learning new vocabulary is called the keyword method. This requires learners to form an interactive mental image of the definition of the new word together with a familiar concrete word that shares a similar acoustic element. In the article Sadoski uses the example of the word 'potable', which means suitable for drinking. 'Pot' is the keyword that forms part of a word potable and can be visualised as the pot containing water.  Thus, visual and  acoustic  word associations are linked to word symbols, meanings and context. Word roots, suffixes and prefixes can also used in conjunction with the key word method to enhance this learning experience.

Sadoski, M. (2005). A dual coding view of vocabulary learning. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 21, 221-238.

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