Growing Known Writing Vocabulary

Supporting the growth of our students’ writing vocabulary sets the stage for a greater chance of accelerated progress and future success after being discontinued from Reading Recovery. One reason a strong writing vocabulary is important is that it helps to boost a child’s reading vocabulary. These known words also lend themselves to links for the child to use when problem-solving new words. We need to keep an eye on our students’ Weekly Record of Known Writing Vocabulary form and Writing Vocabulary Graph to notice whether each of our students have a growing bank of words that they are able to write on their own. There are steps we can take to foster the growth or our students’ writing vocabulary.

Take advantage of roaming

Use the time during roaming to create opportunities for the child to become fast and confident with their known letters and words. We want to do this mostly through interactions with continuous text in reading and writing. Don’t allow the child to be slow with what they know. This will pay off later when the child is able to apply what they know with ease to new learning. We can use this pool of knowledge to build upon and expand our students’ writing vocabulary.

Write every day

We should make writing a valued part of our lesson every day.  It is time to start problem-solving if we notice that we are running short on time regularly and not spending the time we should on writing. We may want to record a lesson or have a colleague observe the lesson and record times for us to see where we might be losing time.

Extend, extend, extend

Refer to page 89 in Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals for the procedures on teaching a new word in writing. When using the practice page to extend words keep the following in mind.

  • Take the opportunity to extend the word at that moment when the child comes to the word to make the learning more memorable (don’t wait until the end of the sentence).
  • There isn’t a magical number to have a student practice a word. We should watch the child closely to see if they are taking the word on. Are they having to refer to the model or are they starting to make it without a copy? When we notice that the child doesn’t need to look at the model we can cover the word and have them retrieve the word from their head and write it on their own. We can also send the child to the whiteboard to write the word in a new setting.
  • We want to extend words that the child knows a lot about. It doesn’t help to choose words that consist of unknown letters.
  • The child will need to know the word in detail before we can expect them to write it faster. Once a word is known we should help the child to produce the word quickly.

Keep track of known words and how well known they are known

Our goal is to make words very well known so that the child can produce them quickly and with ease. As mentioned above, when choosing new words to learn it is much harder for a child to learn words that include some unknown letters. When a child is learning words it is helpful to keep in mind the various ways of “knowing”.

  • new
  • only just known
  • successfully problem-solved
  • easily produced but easily thrown
  • well-known and recognized in most contexts
  • known in many variant forms

LLDI, page 75

Echo words throughout the lesson

To aid in over-learning a word we can echo a new word throughout our lesson. We might have the child encounter the word during their familiar reads and in the new book. We might plan for a conversation that lends itself to involving that new word (we don’t want to force the issue though).

In many of her works, Clay emphasizes the importance of writing in accelerating reading progress. If we notice that a student’s writing vocabulary growth has plateaued or is growing very slowly we have to consider the impact this will have on their reading achievement. Examining our lesson records and revisiting the section in LLDI on extending writing vocabulary (p. 88) will help to keep us grounded in theory and remind us of procedures. After adjusting our teaching if we don’t quickly see a change in writing vocabulary growth it may be time to reach out to our Reading Recovery colleagues and/or teacher leader.

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