Saturday, February 25, 2017

Vocabulary and spelling development is no different than learning an instrument.

“ The findings for the subarea of the study reveal that the observational research indicates that less than 3% of classroom time is devoted to vocabulary development. Surveys of teachers disagree with this finding giving much higher percentages for word meaning development, Teachers say they use a limited variety of methods whereas the reading texts describe a wide variety of both direct and context methods. Many reading investigators believe that there is a lack of classroom attention to systemic vocabulary development “ ( p. 10 )
A historical examination of vocabulary development in the schools,
1900-1985 Matsuda, Lynn Goodwin, Ed. D. University of Hawaii, 1987

This is an important understanding in relation to what is happening in our schools and why there are opinions and contradictions in relation to vocabulary development. Having taught in a school, it was understood that teaching vocabulary is very difficult, and  why there is little time spent on vocabulary. There are weekly spelling tests, yet this practice is more for the student to do by themselves, as teachers must move through a set curriculum. For this reason, there is a focus on defining words using the text, as this is a valuable skill,  although it is not systemic vocabulary development. Teachers cannot be this systemic development, nor are they meant to be as the very design of public schools.

If I look at taking music lessons, what happens is one goes and has the lesson, and one may go and perform in an orchestra or music group. The lesson and the group interaction is not a time for the small details to be worked out by the self. They offer opportunities for insight, yes.  Thus, it is true that we learn from interaction and from lessons, yet that space is not the necessary individual practice that builds mastery on the small scale. It cannot be, by design.  

It is a situation where the classroom time is the lesson and the group interaction, yet it is not that practice done by the self, that is ALSO necessary. Learning language, words and spelling, must also have that careful practice, by the self, alone, building greater recognition of words, and speaking them; spelling them out, sounding them, knowing the parts, and defining them. It is the same as having music lessons. One must interact with the whole, use the whole to expand understanding AND also do that careful self directed and detailed practice. The benefit of this necessary practice is really knowing something, it is that wonderful and necessary discipline of integrating something so that self can generate with confidence. 

Overall, the above quote is correct that teachers do not do that systemic practice, because by design, they cannot. They also teach to use the text, and they model words, but they ultimately cannot go home with the student and be the necessary individual practice that leads to real mastery. 

Teachers, parents and administrators, must realize the practical nature of this. Our bodies are just like an instrument. We have lessons and we have group interactions. The practices of the group is actually being what it can be and do. Overall, nothing can replace that individual careful practice of integration. Children, or adults that have not walked this, must practice sounding the words, generating them without copying, spelling the words and placing the words into living contexts. When one practices the individual  discipline of moving with an instrument, momentum builds and one is able to process more with greater ease. Working with words is really no different. 

There are tools that organize and automate this practice for the child. What is awesome about this, is that this gives the child the sense that they are doing this themselves. How empowering would this be for a child to realize they can learn and develop with practice? What greater lesson can we give to a child?

Overall, it is important to realize the benefit and limitations of a public school. How we learn an instrument ( or a physical discipline)  is a cool analogy in relation to developing the skill of effective communication. 

If you are interested in such a tool send me a note! 

In my next blog, I will talk about vocal and focal distractions, and how within that necessary individual practice, learning the word by itself, mastering the sound and the spelling, how important it is to build a definition that is directly related to one’s living environment. 

Thank you for reading. 

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