Brown, J. S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989, Jan/Feb).  Situated cognition and the culture of learning.  Educational Researcher, 32-42. LINK:

 The first section of this article, Situated Knowledge and Learning, discusses Miller and Gildea's (1987) research on inquiry-based learning and direct instruction and how learning things out of their natural contexts affects how that knowledge is retained and reused properly.  I found Brown, Collins, & Duguid’s article to be fascinating in how they compared how children naturally expand their vocabularies and how they are taught new vocabulary in a classroom setting.  I have seen students misuse vocabulary words and look back on my own education and remember when I have misused words that were new to me.  I like how the authors note that “words and sentences are not islands, entire unto themselves” because that is how so many children view unfamiliar terms because that is how they are taught to view them (p. 2).  Many teachers introduce vocabulary words from a textbook, perhaps ten words per week.  The students are assigned the vocab list on Monday and by Friday are quizzed on how well they can use those words in sentences (fill in the blanks) and regurgitate definitions.  According to Bloom’s taxonomy, this is one of the lowest levels of learning, recalling information. This research proved that learning is context-independent, whereas, the students can still apply what is learned in situations outside of the familiar if shown how and practice in various situations. 

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I thought this was an interesting point. Today and in the past when I went to school vocabulary words have been used the same. I feel that that is one of the hardest things to teach when you have so many other elements to concentrate on. I once assisted with a second grade teacher and her students by the end of the year were using advanced vocabulary and putting it in the right context. The teacher constantly used higher vocabulary throughout the year with her students and the students wanted to take a chance to use it themselves. I feel like modeling a varied complexity of vocabulary in the classroom is an effective way to teach vocabulary.
Paula and Eryn,
I find this topic to be interesting because vocabulary is very important but for so long it was looked at as new words on Monday and test on Friday, regurgitating information that they will forget the next day. From my observations in classrooms, I've been noticing a change in the way that teachers go about students vocabulary. I've noticed that teachers will not ask students to look up a new word and write its definition but instead write the definition in their own words in less than 3 words. Then, appling this new word by creating a sentence that shows that the student actually understands the meaning. Have either of you seen this or any other strategies that you felt were effective when teaching vocabulary?
I know when I was student teaching with Margie Urie, she wrote each vocabulary word on a large piece of paper and folded the page at each syllable. Then the students spelled the word 3 times while they were looking at it. Next, they spelled it 3 times without looking at it. Then they spelled it backwards 3 times while looking at it. Last, one student would be chosen to spell it backward.

Another strategie Margie uses is word sorting. She printed out a list of the vocab for the upcoming reading selection and had students cut them into small strips. In groups, they worked to arrange the strips in any order, but had to have a reason (relationships between the words). Then they wrote what they thought each word meant and then looked it up in the dictionary and wrote the dictionary definition.

One other strategy I learned from Margie is Visualizing Vocabulary. After the students understood the meaning of each word, they illustrated it.
Margie has some great ideas! Can't wait until l can apply them to my classroom one day.
What a great article Paula. One of my alternate route teachers swears that if you build learning around vocabulary your students will retain more. He goes on to state that using mental models for vocabulary further enhances the retention process. We actually did an experiment in class in which we all have to make up a sign or signal for a vocabulary word. Some of the words were common but he included a word, which excapes me, that most of us did not know the definition of. We were in groups so the group had to pick out one word and make up a signal while the other had to guess what the work was. It was interesting.
I have found lately that words are often misused and become almost slang. Interesting.



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