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LETRS Training - Building Vocabulary and Oral Language

Today I had a great training!  The LETRS training I've been going through has been fabulous, and I'm somewhat sad to see the last session of 4 days has arrived. The best part?  It was so good, I forgot about the stress of not getting to set up my classroom! 
LETRS stands for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling.  Our instructor, Carol Tolman, has been guiding us through the 6 modules:
  1. The Challenge of Learning to Read
  2. The Speech Sounds of English:  Phonetics, Phonology, and Phonemic Awareness
  3. Spellography for Teachers:  How English Spelling Works
  4. The Might Word:  Building Vocabulary and Oral Language
  5. Getting up to Speed:  Developing Fluency
  6. Digging for Meaning:  Teaching Text Comprehension
Before I'd had this training, I'd never have believed how complex these topics were!  Now I'm starting to realize how little I actually know about them!  (But I'm definitely learning!)

In the past sessions we've worked on Modules 1,2,3, and 5.  Today  we did some review of what we've learned so far (very much appreciated, we hadn't been together since April!)  Then we started work on Module 4.  

Some interesting little tidbits I learned today about Oral Language and Building Vocabulary
  • There are 3 ways to build vocabulary:  direct instruction, indirect instruction, and word consciousness.
  • There are approximately 500,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • The average second grader knows 5,000 - 6,000 words.
  • Vocabulary accounts for approximately 50 - 60% of the variance in reading comprehension.
  • Teaching vocabulary improves both verbal IQ and reading comprehension.
  • Second graders should be learning 2 new words a day (based on 365 days) to apply this to the 180 day school year, double it.
  • We couldn't possibly do direct instruction for that many words.  Luckily, indirect instruction is very effective for increasing vocabulary.
  • Children who are reading below grade level still need to be read to at a higher level in order for vocabulary and language to develop.
Some ways to expose children to vocabulary (Indirect teaching)
  1. Introduce new words as you discuss a shared experience.
  2. Elaborate on what the child has said.
  3. Confirm and clarify the child's attempts to use new words.
  4. Deliberately use unusual words in conversation.
Suggested Readings:

Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children
is about a study where the language in the home was measured and compared to reading success.  (Click the image to read more at Amazon.com)

Delivering on the Promise of the 95% Reading and Math Goals tells how a school district in Kennewick, WA improved test scores by increasing parent knowledge of developing language in the preschool years.

Drive:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us tells us about scientific evidence concerning what really motivates people to high performance.

Here are some other posts about my previous LETRS experiences:
Random Tidbits About Our Language Reading Teachers Should Know
More Random Tidbits About Our Language Reading Teachers Should Know
Assessing Reading Difficulties
You've Given the QPS, Now What?


  1. Thanks for sharing what you learned about vocabulary instruction from your training. It really is a complex topic.

  2. This looks great Sally. Thanks for sharing. I definitely eant to learn more about this.
    LMN Tree


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