Vocabulary Study

09 Jan

The National Reading Panel (click the link to read the report, it is very long but very thorough and interesting – note how important phonics is), a very large meta-analysis of data collected on reading instruction and learning, identified vocabulary as one of five critical components of learning to read.  In order to become proficient readers, children need to have a large and varied vocabulary. Effective methods of teaching vocabulary include direct instruction and asking questions about words.


Before Christmas we started vocabulary study in both classes.  On Monday I read a text to the class.  For the grade fives, the text is Hana’s Suitcase, for the grade fours I am reading pieces from The Story of Canada.  While I’m reading the students write down two or three words they don’t know.  After I’m finished reading, the students share the words they wrote down and I record them on the SMART board.  Together we decide on two words to learn for the week.


Next the students independently complete a word page entry in their Vocabulary notebooks.  We learned how to do the entry before the holidays.  The entry includes the following:


Part of Speech:  verb, adverb, noun, adjective.

A definition in the students’ own words.

A synonym and an antonym.

A sentence accurately using the new word.

A drawing that represents the meaning of the word.


Here is an anchor chart we made together:




One of this weeks grade five words is deported and it provided us with the opportunity to talk about prefixes, root words and suffixes.  (Even the word prefix afforded us an opportunity to discuss the meaning of pre)

We talked about what the word might mean and several students had the general idea of what it meant but we couldn’t quite get at the meaning of de-  & port so we decided to look them up on  We discovered that de- usually means to reverse or remove and that port was “carry“so deport means to carry them away from a place.  Of course it doesn’t literally mean that the government picks them up and carries them out of a country, they force them to leave.


Words are so fun and I love the etymology (history and origin) of English words.  It’s so diverse and includes so many words from other languages, particularly French.


Check this out:




This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.

The size of each circle represents the number of speakers for that language. Circles of the same color belong to the same language group. All the groups except for Finno-Ugric (in yellow) are in turn members of the Indo-European language family.

English is a member of the Germanic group (blue) within the Indo-European family. But thanks to 1066, William of Normandy, and all that, about 75% of the modern English vocabulary comes from French and Latin (ie the Romance languages, in orange) rather than Germanic sources. As a result, English (a Germanic language) and French (a Romance language) are actually closer to each other in lexical terms than Romanian (a Romance language) and French.

So why is English still considered a Germanic language? Two reasons. First, the most frequently used 80% of English words come from Germanic sources, not Latinate sources. Those famous Anglo-Saxon monosyllables live on! Second, the syntax of English, although much simplified from its Old English origins, remains recognizably Germanic. The Norman conquest added French vocabulary to the language, and through pidginization it arguably stripped out some Germanic grammar, but it did not ADD French grammar.

The original research data for the chart comes from K. Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics. (Published in Russian.)


Source for the quote and diagram above

1 Comment

Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Word Work


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One response to “Vocabulary Study

  1. Sheela

    February 18, 2015 at 5:22 am


    Thanks for the article about english class kids skype. It is very very useful to Kids. Thanks


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