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In elementary school, I remember participating in a reading incentive program with a simple premise: The more books I read, the more points I’d receive toward a reward. Because of the reward, my classmates and I were highly motivated to spend our free time reading. What’s not to love about a program like that?

There was just one problem. I could read a long, challenging chapter book slightly above my reading level in the same amount of time it took my classmate to read a dozen quick, easy books below his reading level. Who earned more points? My classmate. What did I learn? Quantity beats quality. Don’t challenge yourself.

The program had a fantastic mission, but there was an unintended consequence for me and many other students. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens often in schools. The only way to avoid it is for teachers to take the time to scrutinize the practices and programs they put to use in their classrooms. Are we doing things out of habit or because others are doing them? Or are we doing things because they truly promote learning? A good educator is one who observes and adjusts—constantly and relentlessly.

My four-year-old son recently found a flashcard with the word “flabbergasted” on it. I read the card to him and told him the meaning of the word. He now brings the card everywhere he goes and belly laughs whenever he shows it to someone. Last night he slept with it under his pillow.

There’s something deeply delightful about learning a new vocabulary word.

Learning to decode words is a difficult skill in its own right. ELL students have the added challenge of learning this skill in a nonnative language. It goes without saying that these students need lots of extra support. What should this support look like?

Our teacher’s manuals are packed full of useful information about how to implement our programs effectively. They’re extraordinarily well researched and include hundreds of helpful suggestions. Have you read them recently? Cover to cover?

Don’t worry if the answer is no. We know how busy teachers are, and we want to make it easy on you to implement our programs with fidelity. That’s why we’ve created Fidelity Checklists. Download as many as you’d like—they’re free on our website!

Most fluent readers don’t question the seemingly unnecessary b in doubt. They know it’s there, and they know how to read and spell the word. But in the interest of expanding students’ vocabularies and developing their spelling skills, it can be beneficial to teach that the b actually does serve a purpose.

A Valuable Independent Word-Learning Strategy

As you know, vocabulary is a key component to success in reading. There are many benefits to having a large vocabulary, but none is more valuable than the positive contribution that vocabulary size makes to reading comprehension (Nagy, 2005).

So how many vocabulary words should you aim to teach your students per year?

When we developed Read Naturally Encore and Read Live, we placed a special emphasis on vocabulary development. Students using these tools now have more vocabulary support than ever, and their reading comprehension is benefiting.

What are the most effective ways to teach words and word learning? This edutopia article offers 11 strategies for teaching vocabulary effectively and in accordance with the Common Core State Standards. We were pleased to see that many of the suggestions in the article are incorporated into our popular Take Aim at Vocabulary program. Years of extensive research, carefully developed content, and thorough field-testing went into making Take Aim the highly successful tool it is. We believe Take Aim is the best product on the market for developing vocabulary in the critical middle grades, and Take Aim users agree. Here’s why:

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has made five recommendations for improving adolescent literacy, and Take Aim! at Vocabulary aligns with each of those recommendations. The five recommendations include:

Every word has a story. The more pieces of the story you know, the more likely you are to remember the word’s meaning. For example, during this high season of political discourse, consider the word ballot. This word originated in Italy and translates to “small ball or pebble.” Italians once voted by casting a small ball or pebble into a box, which explains why, in English, a ballot is a device for casting a vote. To students learning the word ballot, the story of the ancient Italian voting system, as well as the connection to the word ball, will likely help them retain the meaning of the word better than if they were asked to simply memorize the definition. And wouldn’t it be fun to teach them these little clues and bits of trivia?

Make Your Student a STAR!

Read Naturally Star of the Month​Share your student’s success story—nominate him or her for our Star of the Month award. Win a Barnes & Noble gift card for the student and a Read Naturally gift certificate for your class!

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