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Literacy Milestone: Voluntarily Clarifying Vocabulary Words

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter and I recently started reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke together. She found a copy of Inkdeath on my bookshelf and became intrigued by the series, but she did understand that starting with the third book would be a mistake (I had listened to the first two on audio). Knowing that this would be a book that would take some time to get through, I purchased a copy. While Amazon lists the age range for Inkheart as eight to twelve, she gave the first chapter a try on her own and found the storyline and vocabulary a bit too complex to read on her own. So I started reading the book aloud to her instead. 

InkheartAs we read, we've been doing what her teacher calls "clarifying" in terms of the vocabulary, where she stops when she gets to an unfamiliar word, looks it up, and writes the definition on a post-it that remains in the book. Because we are reading together and this isn't for school I mostly just tell her the definitions and she writes them down. I don't have the patience to wait for her to look up the words herself. Funke uses a very rich vocabulary, and there are many words to look up. 

I have mixed feelings about doing this formal clarifying with an advanced read-aloud (vs. my just defining the most key words in passing as I go along, which is how we have handled previous books). Pages 6-7 of Inkheart required eight post-it notes between them, and we haven't gotten past Chapter 1. This definitely breaks the flow of the story.

On the other hand, my daughter is currently entranced and entertained by the process.  She was also very excited when I happened to use one of the words (sparse) in conversation and she recognized it from the book. She's dying to show her teacher our post-it-festooned copy.

What I really think is that doing this formal clarifying during read-aloud is fine as long as the novelty of it remains fun for her. Heck, I used to read the dictionary as a kid - I get having an interest in words. However, once we get further into the book (if we get further into the book right now), stopping frequently to write down definitions is going to become frustrating. 

Appreciating words for their own sake is a step on the path towards becoming a literate adult.  I remember, with a slight wince, a story that I wrote in junior high, and read aloud to my English class, that was chock-full of obscure vocabulary words. In my daughter's case, I think at least part of her interest in clarifying has to do with how much she looks up to her teacher. This is a further validation that we are fortunate in her classroom placement. 

Did your kids have a word-definition phase? 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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