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Vocabulary Selection

Last updated Sunday, April 9, 2006

The following article was written by long-time educator and Reading to Kids volunteer Susan Thibodeaux.

One of our functions as Reading to Kids volunteers is to select vocabulary from the story upon which the children focus during the reading and discussion.

Following is a process which can be utilized. Start out by visualizing or drawing a staircase that contains three steps.

The first and lowest step houses Tier One. These are words that most children learn orally at home as toddlers and have mastered by school age. These are basic survival words whose meanings are well known. Examples of words on this tier are house, school, tree, family, mother, father, etc.

Skip to the third or top step of the staircase. This is the location of Tier Three words. These are words that are encountered in a story which may be more difficult to read and understand. They are specific to the main idea of the story but children need to understand their meaning in order to comprehend the content. These are words which the reader helps children pronounce, then briefly explains, and moves on. For example, in a story about buildings the word architecture might fit into this category. In a story about witchcraft the word hallucination would apply. In a story about prehistoric animals the word ichthyosaur might be selected.

The words on the second step or Tier Two words are the ones upon which we focus. These are words in the story that we would like the students to be able to pronounce, define, and incorporate into their speaking and writing vocabularies. Words that can be included in this category are delectable, haggard, apprehension. These words are an advancement from and substitute for basic words from Tier One (good, tired, afraid).

Besides sharing our love of reading with children, we are in a unique position to share a love for the melody and complexity of words. It would be a great accomplishment to have children leave us with a command of a more extensive vocabulary.