VOCABULARY JOURNAL: Building Academic Vocabulary with SPEED™

It’s finally available!!!!  The student journals for academic vocabulary called, VOCABULARY JOURNAL: Building Academic Vocabulary with SPEED™ is now available on Amazon!  So why did we create this resource?

Well, we know that challenges with vocabulary strongly influence the readability of a text (Chall & Dale, 1995).  Not only that, but lacking vocabulary is known to be a critical factor in overall school failure or success in disadvantaged students (Biemiller, 1999).    Yes, it is a disheartening fact that ELs and struggling students have notably lower vocabularies than their counterparts ((Oller & Eilers, 2002), because these vocabularies are such strong predictors of overall achievement.

One reason for this is that their native English learnering peers acquire an estimated 3,000 new words each year in school (Nagy & Anderson, 1984).   This vast number of words helps native English students achieve growth in reading comprehension and their ability to communicate mastery across content areas.  The self-fulfilling prophecy is that this reading growth and content mastery creates the path for native speakers and students to, in turn, learn more words which will fuel even further growth down the line.   But for EL’s and struggling students, the challenge with vocabulary is greater than just acquiring the same 3,000 new words each year.   These students come with such a range of size in their vocabulary (Snow & Kim, 2007), that it is almost impossible to calculate what it would take for these students to reach the same vocabularies, and by extension the same opportunity for school success, as their native classmates.  It is because of this that it becomes almost impossible to have a singular approach to helping them catch up to their peers.

So what is the solution?  Well, the solution needed to be one that blossomed from the uniqueness of each learner’s situations and the reality of the schools in which they learn.   The solution to this challenge came organically, from studying tons of research, watching great teachers, and analyzing the impact of different approaches on student learning and engagement.   I call it SPEED™.   SPEED™ is a comprehensive vocabulary acquisition process that allows for the introduction, building background knowledge, explicit teaching, meaningful and varied practice, and metacognitive dialogue that allows EL’s and struggling students to acquire vocabulary words quickly and profoundly.

Since many studies suggest that the amount of instructional time devoted to building vocabulary is simply not enough, part of the SPEED™ approach includes teachers’ willingness to commit to increase the amount of consideration given to vocabulary instruction.  Again, the commitment is to consider vocabulary needs when planning, not to necessarily increase the amount of time.  In parts 1 and 2 of this book, we will share simple and time-efficient ways of doing this.  An additional piece that makes SPEED™ effective is that students are asked to develop goals around their word usage outside of vocabulary “time”.   This goal setting, helps students transfer the knowledge of the vocabulary gained during safe practice into other situations and times when the term would be appropriate.

So, are you ready to help your students acquire academic vocabulary with SPEED?