What can teachers do to help students develop stronger vocabulary knowledge?
Page 4: Introduction to Possible Sentences
One strategy that can be used to support initial vocabulary learning is Possible Sentences. This practice helps students to examine how an author uses academic vocabulary and, eventually, facilitates their close reading of content-area text. This easy-to-implement strategy involves pre-teaching vocabulary terms before students read a content-area text passage and then, after they’ve read the text, allowing students the opportunity to revisit that vocabulary and solidify their learning. Possible Sentences requires some background knowledge of the content, so it is recommended that the strategy not be used at the beginning of a new unit. Instead, the strategy should be used once students have some familiarity with the themes or concepts in the unit. Possible Sentences consists of six steps:
|Teacher: Select unfamiliar and familiar words.|
|Teacher and students: Practice word identification.|
|Teacher and students: Generate student-friendly definitions.|
|Students: Compose Possible Sentences.|
|Students: Read text.|
|Students: Evaluate, discuss, revise sentences.|
Research over the last 20 years has demonstrated the effectiveness of Possible Sentences.
- When teachers use Possible Sentences with academic text, their students:
- Were better able to pronounce terms presented in context
- Showed improved recall of academic vocabulary
- Showed improved recall of facts from the text
(Bismonte et al., 1994; Stahl & Kapinus, 1991)
- Researchers concluded that students who used Possible Sentences benefited from hearing how their peers process information during the pair, small-group work, and whole-class sharing opportunities.
(Stahl & Kapinus, 1991)
- The Possible Sentences strategy has been shown to significantly improve vocabulary knowledge for students with a range of reading abilities and among those from diverse backgrounds.
(Bismonte et al., 1994)