Developing Students’ Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap | Edutopia

12 Dec

Developing Students’ Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap

We, in Hooksett, NH, are not in a Mecca of ethnic or racial diversity. We do, however, serve a population richly diverse in academic differences. Regardless of a student’s coding or educational profile, though, we need to cater to our students’s strong suits so we can address their weaknesses. The following article lists a few simple methods we can use to improve students understanding of us, teachers, so we can eliminate the achievement gap.

Here is an excerpt of the beginning of Ben Johnson’s post:

“At a small school district, I faced the challenge as an administrator of diminishing the achievement gap in the student scores, especially in math and science. For example, we noticed that in science there was a 40-point gap between Hispanic students passing the test versus the number of white students passing. Having been in the classrooms and having observed teachers teaching, I knew that they were not treating Hispanic students any differently than the white students. So why was there an achievement gap?

We wrestled with this question for a while. Then one day when I was talking with my own children the problem dawned on me: I sometimes had to watch how I spoke with my own children because they would give me funny looks when I used the “big” or unfamiliar words. My own children spoke English just fine, but they did not understand words like ubiquitous, loquacious, or facetious. The solution was looking me in the face quizzically. So, were teachers using academic language that the students whose first language was English were more familiar with? To make a long story short, we decided to increase the level of vocabulary development, primarily using many sheltered language techniques. The results were astounding. Because of this and an intense college readiness focus, in two years, our schools went from the status of unacceptable to recognized and then the next year, exemplary.”

Read more by clicking the following link:

Developing Students’ Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap | Edutopia.

Questions to Consider:

1. What stands out about his 3 techniques?

2. How could you implement those strategies in your class?

3. He implemented these strategies in his school primarily to eliminate the achievement gap between Hispanics and whites. Could it be beneficial for others?

One Response to “Developing Students’ Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap | Edutopia”

  1. Maryann December 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article…many of the practices he discusses are strategies I was taught in my methods of reading course years and years ago. I can clearly see how we need to be more aware of our ELL population when crafting the language we use in our instruction.
    I am a strong believer in “building background” in order to bring comprehension- orally or written ALIVE. – Connecting the text( vocab) to self, other texts and to the world ( Mosaic of Thought : Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann) anchors meaning therefore freeing the children up for higher level thinking skills.
    The common denominator I see among all 3 strategies is student engagement- the kids are actively involved in discovering meaning which in turn develops thoughtful thinkers. I totally agree with the notion that these strategies, although most beneficial for ELL/sped etc, benefit the entire class as well. Sort of like what a nutritionist says about a Diabetics diet….everyone should eat 6 small meals a day- it’s whats best for the body. Delving deeper into the word level meaning enhances comprehension as well as reading fluency-
    Thanks for sharing this article- It’s a good reminder to continue with these practices- although sometimes under the TIME CRUNCH – I may skip them. I will share this article with my paras- it supports good teaching practices!

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