Teaching Vocabulary in All Classrooms. (3Rd Ed.)

Article excerpt

Blachowicz, Camille and Fisher, Peter J. (2006). Teaching vocabulary in all classrooms. (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-119803-3.

Blachowicz and Fisher have designed an inquiry into the nature of vocabulary study in which readers explore their own knowledge of instruction and practices. For readers who have read earlier editions, this one includes the most recent research into vocabulary learning and provides updated instructional practices and student artifacts. They illustrate their engaging, informal look at research seamlessly weaving many instructional strategies for teaching and practicing vocabulary that illustrates research. They include vignettes of classroom discussion and student interactions. The chapters include explicit vocabulary instruction and practice, vocabulary in reading and reading aloud, instruction in the content areas, and assessment.

Central in the authors' argument is the practice of developing vocabulary during critical conversations while reading that encourage thinking about interesting, stimulating or critical topics for students. For instance, in one vignette the teacher/adult and children are reading a book about African elephants, their communities, and their value to the people. They talk about the issues related to poaching looking at the implications for elephant communities and humans.

Blachowicz and Fisher argue that vocabulary is learned through exposure to different situations and activities, and the informal learning from the context of personal reading, reading aloud, and conversation is one area for instruction. The authors write, "We can help students develop the ability to problem-solve using new words and their contexts. This type of instruction involves modeling the thinking processes we use when trying to figure out word meaning" (p. 19). The authors present strategies for problem-solving and for teaching vocabulary directly. To problem-solve with context the authors present seven kinds of information to look for, the presence of a synonym in the text, what a word is like or not like, language about location or setting, something about function of the word, what kind of action it involves, how something is done, and general topics related to the word.

They explain an experience of a teacher who used a problem-solving approach to thinking about particular vocabulary, that combines thinking aloud, and talking among peers about examples and analogies. They write, "This problem solving approach encourages students to develop their own understandings when the teacher is not present to help them" (p. 88). They go on to write, "We should remember that low knowledge of a particular topic . …