Sunday, May 9, 2010

Four-Ply Vocabulary Plan

In this post I discuss a comprehensive plan for vocabulary growth. This multifaceted approach could be implemented in summer school and throughout the year. I provide useful links and an expanding slide to facilitate the professional planning process. 

Michael Graves is a senior scientist who has conducted a thorough study of the research pertaining to vocabulary instruction. In doing so, he arrived at the hypothesis that a comprehensive vocabulary program needs to include four broad components (Graves, 2000, 2006). According to Graves, teachers can convey word knowledge and kindle interest through an integrated four-ply approach that includes both explicit and implicit methodology--a design that envelopes both intentional and incidental word learning. The four components are listed below and described more fully in The Vocabulary Book (Graves, 2006).  

Provide rich and varied language experiences: Experience words and phrases through reading, listening, speaking, and writing across varied genres, including prose and poetry, narrative and informational texts. Read to and with students. Encourage students to read independently and in book clubs.

Teach individual words: Teach new words with explicit methods. Include a student-friendly definition, varied context, student-generated definitions, instructional-conversations with peers, interactive and responsive engagement, etc. etc. Use the method that best fits the word and the learner. This means we vary the method depending on the situation. 

Teach word-learning strategies: Teach and model how to infer word meaning from context clues. Teach and model how to infer meaning from morpheme clues. Teach students how and when to use a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Foster word consciousness: Kindle interest in the power and usefulness of words and phrases (see poetry post). Play with words and learn to enjoy them (see wordplay post).

Graves had only a hypothesis until his four components were systematically put into play in real time in a real classroom. Thus, Baumann, Ware, and Edwards (2007) worked with 20 fifth-graders for about 7 months, implementing this four-ply methodology and increasing the writing aspects of the study. This classroom included low-income students of diverse backgrounds. What were the results? The four-ply method resulted in vocabulary gains as measured with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and the Expressive Vocabulary Test. Furthermore, qualitative analysis revealed that the fifth graders grew in confidence and motivation. They were more apt to attack unknown words independently by addressing surrounding context clues and internal morpheme clues (prefix, base, suffix). Note, there was no control group, so findings are somewhat tenuous.

To learn how it was done, download Baumann et al. (2007) from The Reading Teacher. Read the article, perhaps dividing the faculty into four leadership teams, one for each component. If this plan is implemented with tenacity--not allowed to fall by the wayside--students are likely to make noticeable progress. If we persist and distribute the practice over time we should see gains, especially in receptive vocabulary. To facilitate the professional development process, I provide a summary slide.
Click image to enlarge. Right-click to save it.

Baumann, J.F., Ware, D., & Edwards, E.C. (2007). “Bumping into spicy, tasty words that catch your tongue:” A formative experiment on vocabulary instruction. The Reading Teacher, 61(2), 108-122.

Graves, M. F. (2000). A vocabulary program to complement and bolster a middle-grade comprehension program. In B. Taylor, M. F. Graves, and P. van den Broek (Eds.), Reading for meaning: Fostering comprehension in the middle grades (pp. 116-135). New York: Teachers College Press.  

Graves, M.F. (2006). The vocabulary book: Learning and instruction. New York: Teachers College Press.


    1. Judy E.5/12/2010

      Interesting blog this week. I appreciate the research Graves and Baumann are doing and I appreciate your encouragement of the multifaceted approach. Also, thank you for the link to the article “Bumping Into Spicy, Tasty
      Words That Catch Your Tongue”, it is very informative.

    2. Hi, Judy. You are most welcome! Glad you were able to download the article. Did you enjoy reading the student reflections? (I did--it makes me feel closer to the classroom.)

    3. Hmm...I think I do this with Tier 2 words that are selected from a text we are reading. We define it in kid language, give examples and non-examples, sketch a picture, and then use it in a 7up sentence. On another day we partner up and I give a sentence stem...It is peculiar when... They love this and I get some really nice sentences. Then, later on in the week, we may act it out. The words are on the walls with the front cover of the story. They get to pick any of the Big Dog Words and use them as they act out a scene. We call them Big Dog Words because you certainly feed the big dog, just like we grow vocabulary from using them. I've done this for two years and the kids still remember the words from last year. BTW...I taught 3rd grade and now do this with 4th graders. I make specific vocabulary time--if I don't value it, they won't. This is not an original plan. I rceived this information from a Reading Odyssey Conference and I loved it!

    4. Hi Sandy. Thanks for sharing your teacher-tested methodology. Big Dog Words--gotta feed 'em a lot! Very clever.


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