Picture Books that Build Vocabulary in Kindergarten
Not everyone believes that Kindergarten should be an academic experience and hence the spate of articles that I have posted on lately (see Has Kindergarten Changed or Are Kids Smarter? and Recess Essential to Kindergartener Development). This raging debate is never more apparent than at my own elementary school where we have 2.5 Kindergarten classrooms. ( The half you ask? We have a combined K/1st grade — a class combination born of shrinking school budgets rather than academic optimization. ) The two Kindergarten only teachers have been at the school for a long time and work beautifully together but they each represent the spectrum of Kindergarten philosophies: Kindergarten as play/learning the norms of behavior for school versus Kindergarten preparing children for academics.
The SAT list that comes home with my Kindergartener each week is a perfect example. If you read the fine print on the sheet, it is from the K/1 teacher, my Kindergarten teacher, and the literacy specialist. The other Kindergarten teacher doesn’t participate in this. Is this a service or a disservice? This is “optional homework” done by parents after all. To settle this conundrum, I turn to Catherine Snow, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, to get her take on age appropriateness of learning vocabulary.
This is from the Harvard Graduate School of Education:
“Catherine Snow on the point of vocabulary learning
Exposure to rich vocabulary in the preK-3 classroom is the best preparation for academic success in later grades, when students will be expected to read texts dense with academic and technical words (“Small Kids, Big Words: Research-based strategies for building vocabulary from preK to grade 3,” HEL May/June 2008). The point, though, is not to learn the words for themselves, but rather to become familiar with the domains of knowledge in which they are embedded. Learning words like hibernate, temperature, and migrate makes perfect sense for a class that is reading books or doing science projects on adaptations to seasonal changes—then the learning activities will ensure that the words are meaningful, that they will recur often enough to be acquired, and that the children will have authentic reasons to use them.
Learning such words because they appear on a list is not good practice. But many of the most important words for children to learn refer to processes of communication and knowledge making. These include words like prove, suggest, confirm, deny, agree, argue, hypothesis, theory, probably, apparently, evidently. In the process of learning to use words like these, children also learn about having discussions, proving points, displaying evidence, and considering alternate positions (“Hot Topics and Key Words: Pilot project brings teachers together to tackle middle school literacy,” HEL March/April 2008) This is crucial, but the words don’t ‘belong’ to any particular content area. Rather, they belong to academic discourse of the kind that should be going on in any lively learning environment, relevant to a wide array of topics children might be engaged by.”
Is this confusing to you too? I am going with my original takeaway way back at Week 1 of SAT Vocabulary for Kindergarteners: see if your child gets the gist of the word from the sentence. It’s building a vocabulary by “intuition” akin to kicking words around like a soccer ball but not actually doing drills. This is much more of a “pick up game” of the variety that my girls play with our dog at the dog park with a ratty tennis ball.
p.s. I have a category of posts on SAT Vocabulary Words for Kindergarteners here.
This is the list for Week 4:
Be gentle when you hold the kitten.
Ethan’s paper airplane soared above the tree branches.
I noticed that my feet felt more comfortable in the new shoes.
The crisp air outside felt good after being on the hot, crowded bus.
We communicate with our pen pals by writing letters back and forth.
We were eager to find out which game we were going to play in gym class.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.