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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Sounds and words

Sounds and words.

Sounds and Words is designed to support teachers and students to learn about phonological awareness and spelling. It builds on the Literacy Learning Progressions in support of the reading and writing standards.

We should better understand what is going on before our eyes because better understanding results in better-quality teaching interactions ...

Clay, 1998, page 131

Definition: Literacy learners’ vocabulary consists of the words that they know and can use in their reading and writing. Vocabulary development means that learners acquire and add to this repertoire of words.

Vocabulary develops through oral language. It is more than just “knowing” a word, in that, the person must understand a word can be used in different contexts to reflect different meanings. It is very likely that a child’s receptive vocabulary (the words they understand) will be larger than their expressive language (the words they use when talking). As children develop their vocabulary they may use new words incorrectly. It is important to help children develop their oral vocabularies, which includes using correct subject specific vocabulary.

In their reading and writing, students draw on what they understand and use in listening and speaking. As children become proficient readers their vocabulary will expand through literacy experiences. A child’s vocabulary size has been directly linked in longitudinal research to their reading comprehension abilities.

Since words carry most of the meaning in oral and written language, vocabulary knowledge is critical for literacy success. It requires planned and ongoing instruction across the curriculum. Vocabulary-rich talk in the classroom helps students to develop their curiosity about words and to enjoy discovering and using them.

What do I need to know and do?

Words carry most of the meaning in texts. Knowledge and use of high-frequency and academic language will help students deal with cross-curricular texts.

Build on students’ growing vocabulary by highlighting how words and phrases are used in different curriculum contexts. Make links throughout the day to reinforce new understandings.

These words may be in languages other than English. Provide reading and writing opportunities in other languages by using resources such as Tupu or Fōlauga. If there are no resources available, ask someone who knows the language to translate particular words and sentence-starters for use in class. Support your students by responding to what they say in other languages, encouraging them to show you what they mean, and supporting them to find the English words.

How vocabulary develops

Students’ prior knowledge plays a major role in their vocabulary development. Most vocabulary learning occurs incidentally. However, planned instruction is essential – students need repeated encounters with new vocabulary and plenty of practice.

As subject-specific words are introduced and used, students build their vocabulary across the New Zealand Curriculum and can be encouraged to explore and experiment with words.

Vocabulary development draws on a knowledge of morphology. In year 4, students use their increasing knowledge of prefixes, suffixes, and roots to infer the meanings of words. They understand how parts of words (morphemes) affect meanings.

Content-specific vocabulary is important for talking and thinking about learning, for example, "infer" and "glossary". Many new words are encountered during deliberate instruction. However, as students read and write more complex texts, they encounter more content-specific vocabulary that may be unfamiliar but is crucial to their understanding of the topic.

Year 5 students’ academic and subject-specific vocabulary is increasing. By the end of year 6, they need a strong vocabulary base to use with greater control and independence. Students need knowledge and awareness of how words work and when to use them.

English language learners

English language learners require particular support. They need to learn more words than their peers, so they need explicit instruction, repetition, recycling, and opportunities to practise and use new vocabulary.

For more information about the particular needs of English language learners, see Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 4 to 8, pages 46–47. (See also LEAP.) Teaching vocabulary is closely linked to teaching spelling. Activities, for example, studying more challenging word structures or investigating how affixes and roots affect word meanings, are highly relevant to vocabulary development.

  • For more information and teaching suggestions, see Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, pages 144–148.

Creating (and seizing) opportunities for vocabulary development

Give students opportunities to use new and familiar words in different contexts and to encounter them many times. Look for opportunities throughout the day for vocabulary development:

  • Teach and reinforce high-frequency, personal-interest, and topic-related words. These could be opportunities in:
    • literacy contexts, for example, one-to-one writing conferences, paired reading, and independent writing or reading
    • vocabulary-specific activities, for example, meanings of words in different curriculum contexts, for example, "bank" or word webs for a topic
    • spelling activities to build knowledge of word families and spelling patterns in words.
  • Build students’ word consciousness. Deepen their curiosity and enjoyment by investigating ambiguous words, figures of speech, tongue-twisters, word maps, concept charts, or displays. Model and use new vocabulary.
  • Teach content-specific vocabulary so students can think and talk about their learning in all areas. Consciously use relevant language, for example, ‘‘summarise" and "estimate"; "citizenship" and "clarify".

For an example of this, download the conversation below (or read the transcript):

Vocabulary size and depth matters in classroom learning: the more building blocks we have, the more we can build.

  • Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 4 to 8, page 27

Developing an extensive vocabulary enables students to improve both their reading comprehension and their writing.

  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8, page 126

Instructional strategies and vocabulary development

A deliberate focus on vocabulary will support students as they engage with more varied texts. Monitor the impact of your teaching by noticing how students are using and recognising new vocabulary in their reading and writing and explaining their processes.

Shared learning goals

Use assessment information to develop shared learning goals, for example, "Use knowledge of prefixes to work out meanings of new words in reading or writing". Students will see purpose in their learning and develop a metacognitive awareness of language.

For more information about goal-directed instruction and becoming metacognitive, see Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, pages 43–44; Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 4 to 8, pages 77–78; and Teaching Reading Comprehension, Alison Davis, chapter 1.

Deliberate acts of teaching

Use a range of deliberate acts of teaching:

  • Model how students can draw on words from their oral language, and from texts, to use in their reading and writing.
  • Give feedback, for example, on students’ use of a strategy such as inference, to build their awareness of when and how they use what they know (metacognition).
  • Prompt students to look for parts of words they know to work out how prefixes alter the meaning.
  • Prompt students to notice more precise meanings, such as the use of emotive language.
  • Explain, for example, how visual information can be used to convey meaning.

For an example of this, download the conversation below or read the transcript:

For more information about deliberate acts of teaching, see Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, pages 78–87, and Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 4 to 8, pages 49–57.

Planning literacy teaching with a focus on vocabulary

Certain approaches (for example, shared reading and writing) allow you to meet identified vocabulary-learning needs. Use these approaches throughout the school day, for example, during technology or social sciences activities.

  • For more information, see Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, pages 102–104 and page 175. The New Zealand Curriculum English Exemplars illustrate word choices during writing.

Plan instruction that will support students to develop their use of strategies and build their vocabulary. These strategies include using prior knowledge and information in a wider context to find the meaning of unfamiliar words, and recognising and using known words in new and challenging contexts.

  • For more information about processing and comprehension strategies and sources of information, see Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, chapter 5, and Teaching Reading Comprehension, Alison Davis, chapter 7.

English language learners

Provide targeted support for English language learners. Give them extra support, for example, by giving them clear explanations of words, sentence starters, a word bank to choose words from, speaking or writing frames, and opportunities to discuss ideas or create sentences in another language before putting them into English.

For detailed information about providing support, see Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 4 to 8, page 79-80, Supporting English Language Learning in Primary Schools, and ESOL Online: Teacher needs.

Suggestions for assessment

To find out more about your students’ vocabulary development, identify assessment procedures and tools that will help you gather information. You can do this during topic-focused discussions, writing activities, and text-based discussions in all media.

Information from oral language

Students use vocabulary from the widening variety of texts, but they continue to draw on their oral language in their vocabulary development. Notice the language that students use, both in class and in informal settings.

Your students may speak languages other than English, so find out about their vocabulary in those languages. Students who are new to New Zealand or new to English-speaking environments may need time to settle in before they feel confident about speaking in class. Pay attention to what students understand as well as what they say.

  • For guidance on gathering information as you monitor students’ oral vocabulary, see Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 4 to 8, pages 33-40.

Observation-based procedures

Teachers can gather a lot of information by observing how students use language.

Informal observations

Notice how students use vocabulary. For example, observe them during:

  • independent literacy and cross-curricular learning activities
  • instructional reading or writing
  • brief, on-the-run interactions focused, for example, on a student’s use of a specialist term
  • peer discussions as students give feedback on each other’s writing
  • writing and reading conferences
  • group planning and problem solving, across all curriculum contexts.

Look for how your students’ knowledge has grown, for example, through using a variety of words with precision. Look also for a curiosity and enjoyment in discovering new words or experimenting with them.

Structured observations

Observe your students’ use of vocabulary during literacy activities. Use these guiding questions for your observations:

  • Does the student draw on oral language to make meaning in reading and writing?
  • Can the student recognise and use vocabulary in a way that’s suitable for the activity’s purpose?
  • What strategies does the student use when meeting challenges? For example, does the student use context to work out meanings in reading and writing?
  • Does the student use subject-related and academic vocabulary, for example, "habitat" and "hypothesis"?

Information from analysis of students’ writing

Analysing the words students use gives you information about the richness of their vocabulary. This will help you identify their knowledge and their next learning steps.

Find out if your students can write in languages other than English. Gather information about their written vocabulary use in those languages.

  • See Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8, pages 62–63.
  • The New Zealand Curriculum English Exemplars include examples of students’ writing at level 3, which can be used to guide your assessment. The annotations include comments about vocabulary. Specific information about vocabulary at each level can be found under deeper features in the matrix of progress indicators.

Standardised assessment procedures

Each standardised assessment tool provides information about specific aspects of vocabulary development.

Specialised assessment resources

  • The English Language Learning Progressions (for mainstream and ELL teachers) can be used alongside the ESOL Progress Assessment Guidelines and the ESOL Funding Assessment Guidelines. Students in years 1–4 who are at Foundation or Stage 1 in ELLP can be monitored according to ELLP for up to two years before being assessed against the National Standards.
  • The Junior Oral Language Screening Test (JOST) contains screening tools that you can use with students who are not progressing well.
  • Literacy Online: Dyslexia provides information about key Ministry of Education resources.
    • defines and describes dyslexia and provides information about assessments as well as support for teachers.
  • Assessment Online and Using Evidence in Teaching Practice (Helen Timperley and Judy Parr) include more detail about the assessment procedures and tools used in New Zealand schools. 
  • Literacy Online provides more information about identifying your students’ specific literacy needs.

After 1 year at school

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum, the National Standards, and The Literacy Learning Progressions provide guidance for teaching vocabulary in year 1.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 1 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Uses sources of information (meaning, structure, visual, and grapho-phonic information) and prior knowledge to make sense of a range of texts.
  • Uses processing and some comprehension strategies with some confidence.

Language features

  • Recognises a large bank of high-frequency and some topic-specific words.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates texts by using meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic sources of information, prior knowledge, and some processing strategies with some confidence.

Purposes and audiences

  • Constructs texts that demonstrate some awareness of purpose and audience through appropriate choice of content, language, and text form.

Language features

  • Uses a range of high-frequency, topic-specific, and personal-content words to create meaning.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

After one year at school, students will read, respond to, and think critically about fiction and non-fiction texts at the Green level of Ready to Read.

Standard: Writing

After one year at school, students will create texts as they learn in a range of contexts across the New Zealand Curriculum within level 1. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • automatically recognising many (100–200) of the high-frequency words in their instructional texts
  • applying their knowledge of vocabulary in order to understand words as they decode them and to make meaning at the sentence and whole-text level.

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using vocabulary drawn from their own oral language or encountered in their reading or other classroom activities
  • using classroom resources such as wallcharts and picture dictionaries.

After 2 years at school

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum, the National Standards, and The Literacy Learning Progressions provide guidance for teaching vocabulary in year 2.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 1 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Uses sources of information (meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic information) and prior knowledge to make sense of a range of texts.
  • Uses processing and some comprehension strategies with some confidence.

Language features

  • Recognises a large bank of high-frequency and some topic-specific words.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates texts by using meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic information, prior knowledge, and some processing strategies with some confidence.

Purposes and audiences

  • Constructs texts that demonstrate some awareness of purpose and audience through appropriate choice of content, language, and text form.

Language features

  • Uses a range of high-frequency, topic-specific, and personal-content words to create meaning.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

After two years at school, students will read, respond to, and think critically about fiction and non-fiction texts at the Turquoise level of Ready to Read.

Standard: Writing

After two years at school, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 1. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • automatically recognising between 300 and 500 high-frequency words in their instructional texts
  • finding the meanings of unknown words by using strategies such as:
    • rereading text to gather more information
    • looking for definitions in the text
    • using prior and subsequent information in the sentences
    • inferring from the illustrations.

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using their personal content vocabulary of written words as well as words and phrases that are part of their expanding oral vocabulary
  • attempting some variety and precision in the use of adjectives, nouns, and verbs.

After 3 years at school

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum, the National Standards, and The Literacy Learning Progressions provide guidance for teaching vocabulary in years 3 and 4.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 2 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Selects and uses sources of information (meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic information) and prior knowledge with growing confidence to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.
  • Uses an increasing knowledge of letter clusters, affixes, roots, and compound words to confirm predictions.
  • Selects and uses processing strategies and an increasing range of comprehension strategies with some understanding and confidence.

Language features

  • Uses a large and increasing bank of high-frequency, topic-specific, and personal-content words to make meaning.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates texts by using meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic sources of information, and processing strategies with growing confidence.

Purposes and audiences

  • Constructs texts that demonstrate a growing awareness of audience and purpose through appropriate choice of content, language, and text form.

Language features

  • Uses a large and increasing bank of high-frequency, topic-specific, and personal-content words to create meaning.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

By the end of year 4, students will read, respond to, and think critically about texts in order to meet the reading demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 2. Students will locate and evaluate information and ideas within texts appropriate to this level as they generate and answer questions to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Standard: Writing

By the end of year 4, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 2. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • automatically reading all high-frequency words
  • working out the meanings of new words, using strategies such as:
    • applying knowledge of the meanings of most common prefixes (for example, over-, mis-,sub-, pre-, inter-, semi-, mid-) and most common suffixes (for example, -ist, -ity, -ty,-ion, -able/-ible, -ness, -ment)
    • using reference sources (for example, dictionaries and thesauruses) to find the meanings of new words
    • inferring word meanings from known roots and affixes (for example, by using the known meaning of tele- and -port to infer the meaning of teleport)
  • working out the meanings of unfamiliar phrases and expressions (for example, figures of speech) by drawing on their oral language and the context.

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using vocabulary (in particular, nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) that clearly conveys ideas, experiences, and information
  • expanding their writing vocabulary by using strategies such as:
    • applying their knowledge of the meaning of most common prefixes (for example, un-,sub-, pre-, non-) and most common suffixes (for example, -ful, -ly, -tion, -able/-ible, and-ment)
    • using reference sources (for example, dictionaries and thesauruses) to check the meanings of words and to find new words.

End of year 6

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum, the National Standards, and The Literacy Learning Progressions provide guidance for teaching vocabulary in years 5 and 6.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 3 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Integrates sources of information and prior knowledge with developing confidence to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.
  • Selects and uses a range of processing and comprehension strategies with growing understanding and confidence.

Language features

  • Uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates a range of texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies with developing confidence.

Purposes and audiences

  • Constructs texts that show a growing awareness of purpose and audience through careful choice of content, language, and text form.

Language feature

  • Uses a range of vocabulary to communicate meaning.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

By the end of year 6, students will read, respond to, and think critically about texts in order to meet the reading demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 3. Students will locate, evaluate, and integrate information and ideas within and across a small range of texts appropriate to this level as they generate and answer questions to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Standard: Writing

By the end of year 6, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 3. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

When students at this level read, respond to, and think critically about texts, they:

  • identify and reflect on writers’ purposes and on the ways in which writers use language and ideas to suit their purposes (for example, by using vocabulary to set a scene or develop a mood).

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • finding and learning the meanings of unknown vocabulary by using strategies such as applying their knowledge of how words work or seeking explanations in the text or in illustrations
  • understanding that words and phrases can have figurative as well as literal meanings and that some words have different meanings depending on context.

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • selecting vocabulary that is appropriate to the topic, register, and purpose (for example, academic and subject-specific vocabulary appropriate for specific learning areas or precise and descriptive words to create a mental image)
  • using written language features (such as emotive vocabulary) and visual language features (such as headings, charts, or maps) to extend or clarify meaning and to engage their audience.

End of year 8

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum, the National Standards, and The Literacy Learning Progressions provide guidance for teaching vocabulary in years 7 and 8.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 4 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Integrates sources of information and prior knowledge confidently to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.
  • Selects and uses appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with increasing understanding and confidence.

Language features

  • Uses an increasing vocabulary to make meaning.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates a range of texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies with increasing confidence.

Purposes and audiences

  • Constructs texts that show an awareness of purpose and audience through deliberate choice of content, language, and text form.

Language features

  • Uses a range of vocabulary to communicate precise meaning.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

By the end of year 8, students will read, respond to, and think critically about texts in order to meet the reading demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 4. Students will locate, evaluate, and synthesise information and ideas within and across a range of texts appropriate to this level as they generate and answer questions to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Standard: Writing

By the end of year 8, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 4. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

When students at this level read, respond to, and think critically about texts, they:

  • increasingly control a repertoire of comprehension strategies that they can use flexibly and draw on when they know they are not comprehending fully, including such strategies as:
    • identifying and evaluating writers’ purposes and the ways in which writers use language and ideas to suit their purposes.

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • working out more complex, irregular, and/or ambiguous words by using strategies such as inferring the unknown from the known
  • using their growing academic and content-specific vocabulary to understand texts
  • interpreting metaphor,  analogy, and connotative language.

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using language that is appropriate to the topic, audience, and purpose (for example, expressive, academic, or subject-specific vocabulary) and discussing these language choices using appropriate terms, such as register and tone
  • deliberately using written language features (for example, rhetorical questions and metaphors) and visual language features to engage the audience and/or convey meaning.

 For individual children, you may need to look ahead or at previous years to identify expectations.

Published on: 07 Mar 2015




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