Monday, September 28, 2009

A Rationale for Developing Word Knowledge (video)

Adolescents who embrace a rationale for learning experience greater reward (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2002). They learn more and are likely to be more interested. A rationale is motivating.

Develop motivation for attending to words. Prompt discussion with a quote from Plato perhaps: "When the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself."  

Discuss the implications: To attend to words is to strive for the higher goals--we use words to think, ponder, wonder, ruminate, and reflect. We use words to inspire, express, enthuse, opine, debate, discuss, argue, exhort, persuade, assuage, encourage, uplift, esteem, justify and empower (we hope).  The mind is powerful and words might well be the very stuff of thought and the essence of identity (Pinker, 2007).

There's another rationale--vocabulary knowledge is predictive of comprehension (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002).   

There are still more reasons to pursue words. What are they? What motivates your students? How does knowledge and self-efficacy relate to motivation? 

Mastropieri, M.A., & Scruggs, T.E. (2002). Effective instruction for special education. Austin, TX: ProEd.


  1. I have my kids get on when they have free time in the computer lab. They build their vocabulary, gain respect for my extended vocabulary, and help feed the hungry- all at the same time. It also has subjects other than English vocabulary! is addictive!

  2. Anonymous10/01/2009

    The quote in Vocablog from Pinker (2007) reminded me of some insightful works by Oliver Wendell Holmes:
    "A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used."

  3. Yes! With the prompts at Freerice, we infer unknown word meanings by examining the morphemes (prefixes, suffixes, roots). As we succeed, we grow in self-efficacy. Settings are adjustable (I think there are 40 levels of difficulty).

  4. I thank anonymous for the quote, having never encountered it before, and resonating strongly with it. Holmes's words could easily enough be illustrated, as they elicit an image, yet at the same time they lend themselves to complex and critical classroom conversations.

  5. Marcia Henry10/14/2009

    Susan, another great addition to your blog!
    Thanks so much for the time you're putting into this! As you know, morphology is my passion! Marcia

  6. Dian Prestwich10/14/2009

    Your latest blog shows once again how it isn't necessary to teach every word to children. Instead, we can teach roots and demonstrate to children how knowing these roots allows them to access the meanings of a number of different words. Morphology is fascinating, and I am still in awe over your weatlth of knowledge on the subject!

  7. Anonymous10/14/2009

    Okay, here's an egocentric sound smart when you use them. Helps in job interviews, letters of introduction, statements on college applications.

  8. Dian and Marcia-- my fellow morphophilists--thank you both! Ps--Marcia, your own work in this field far surpasses my own. Can't wait for the next edition of Unlocking Literacy.

  9. Good point, anon, it's certainly a pragmatic rationale. We all need to pay our bills!

  10. I am so excited about all of your posts! I am learning so much. Thanks Susan for helping me understand morphology. I can't wait to share your blog with all of the teachers I work with.

  11. Hi Adrienne, I am just delighted to know the blog is making a difference. On behalf of all the authors, thank you and best wishes in your work with teachers.

    Please do let me know if there is any particular topic or question you would like addressed.

    Happy morphing!


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