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© 2020 by Aaron Daffern Consulting

For too long, vocabulary instruction has suffered from inattention and quick fixes. Sometimes thought of as an instructional stepchild, many students are denied the power of a rich vocabulary. When teachers don’t fully understand the various components of a robust program, instruction often boils down to copying definitions or memorizing static word meanings.

Pouring over research and proven strategies from literacy experts, Aaron Daffern has identified five parts of a powerful vocabulary program: prepare, present, place, process, and play. By utilizing these five components, students will go beyond simple knowledge and will begin to wrestle with words as they integrate new vocabulary into their semantic knowledge systems.

The first component, prepare, details how to select the highest impact words and avoid spending instructional time on words that are either obscure or common. Second, presenting new words is more than simply telling students what a word means. Teachers can utilize activating prior knowledge, bases/affixes, context clues, descriptive definitions, example/non-examples, friendly words/synonyms, and even grammar usage to define new terms.

The third component, place, provides a variety of methods for students to take new words and tie them into what they already know. The fourth and largest component is process. Both basic and complex tasks should be employed to help students wrestle with new terms and analyze them in a variety of contexts. Finally, students can play with words to extend knowledge and explore shades of meaning.

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