Mighty Morphin' Vocabulary Rangers!: Articles in Recent JAAL and Reading Teacher Jibe Well with *Super-Powered Word Study*
Specifically, Michael J. Keiffer and Nonie K. Lessaux's "Morphing Into Adolescents: Active Word Learning for English-Language Learners and Their Classmates in Middle School" and Joan G. Kelley, Nonie K. Lesaux, Michael K. Keiffer and S. Elisabeth Faller's "Effective Academic Vocabulary Instruction in the Urban Middle School" focus on academic language and morphology. *
"Effective" informs readers that many urban middle school students struggle to understand and use academic vocabulary, which is often rife with ancient roots and affixes. But, when students use "morphological awareness skills," they "gain the cognitive tools they need to learn a large number of words independently."
Students need to learn how to use context clues, of course, which is just one of the many things covered in Super-Powered Word Study.
Both SPWS and these articles suggest overt, explicit, interest-based exploration of language with students drawing on texts they appreciate and are already inclined to be interested in.
Comics, anyone? There are 15 comics stories awaiting students in SPWS, along with suggestion on teaching morphology and developing language exploration skills and attitudes!
Both articles suggest particular attention to morphology as pertinent to vocabulary growth. "Morphing Into" reminds us that morphology is "the study of the structure of words as combinations of smaller units of meaning within words: morphemes," and morphemes include affixes and roots, the exact units of focus in Super-Powered Word Study.
"Morphing Into" suggests that teachers help students when they teach morphology in "an explicit yet meaningful way," as part of a "thinking strategy" rather than as "a bunch of rules or lists of word parts."
Considering what words have in common and are unique is one such way of doing this, and the authors even use a figure to illustrate "Word Sets" that look very much like word sorts, which students can do in SPWS to help them consider morphemes.
Further, students and teachers are encouraged by both articles and SPWS to adapt an explicit language exploration ideology in considering words.
"To exponentially increase vocabulary, students need to develop word consciousness and a curiosity about words," says "Effective." Super-Powered Word Study agrees and helps teachers tap into our innate interest in language by explaining how Larry Andrews' Language Exploration and Awareness theory can help us morph into active language explorers and linguistic inquirers.
"Morphing Into" suggests a 4-step process in which students must endeavor to study words morphologically. Step one involves word recognition study; step two requests overt study of word parts they might know; step 3 asks for hypotheses regarding word parts, and step 4 suggests hypothesis checking.
Students using SPWS will be asked to follow similar processes when they use riddles to figure out/hypothesize meanings of words featuring specific roots or affixes, sort words by their features, and record their observations and hypotheses in their word study journals.
"Effective" also suggests that at the end of each unit, students write, integrating new words, to suggest their mastery over them. All of SPWS's assessments are based in creative writing and ask students to do exactly as this article suggests. "Effective" asks for 5 words in a paragraph, whereas SPWS asks for 6 and also asks students to use "clue language" to show they have also mastered using context clues.
As anyone involved in academic work will tell you that keeping abreast of current research is difficult and tiring work. Further, when it comes to book writing, you're always taking risks that your book will hit the market and then new research will come along to blow its premises out of the water.
And, of course, there's no way to read research published alongside your book or after the book has been "set" such that you can integrate it into the book. There comes a time when you just gotta do the Anne Bradstreet thing and watch your baby walk to school, where you hope it does well.
So, Erik and I certainly did not have access to the classroom-based research coming out of these articles when we wrote Super-Powered Word Study, though many of the sources cited in each article also appear in our book, but isn't is wonderful to know that concepts and findings associated with this brand new research fits the goals and aspirations for students of Super-Powered Word Study?
I think so and think you will to!
James Bucky Carter,
Co-author of... Well, do I have to write it out again? ;)
*Hey, I edited and wrote chapters for Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by PAge, Panel by Panel. Do you think I have any hate for the long title? Further, I'm refering to the articles as if they wrote themselves simply becuase I don't want to write all of those names over and over. Titles are one thing: they can be turned into acronyms and keep reader's comprehension going without much trouble. BLCWGN:PBPPBP anyone? Authors' names? Not so much.