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Literacy in Classroom Vocabulary

allisonletts's picture

Having A come in this week was a great “reality check” for me. It also made me think harder about all of the literacies I have gained this semester and year in my field placement. My placement is in a very vocabulary-y school--there are catchphrases for everything, from “catch a bubble” for not talking to “X is off the team, but working hard to turn it around.” When I first started there last semester, I was constantly overwhelmed by the vocabulary. I could usually understand it in context, but I was unable to apply most of it independently. Now, I’ve led a small group lesson, I regularly work with individuals, and I’m preparing to teach a writing lesson to the whole class on Friday. I’m also going to get a pull-out small group for word study.

When I started thinking about this post, word study was really the connection. I recognized so much of what A was talking about--digraphs, blends, welded sounds, the idea of a picture representing every sound. I also learned that my school uses a balanced literacy program. It fits with my experience in the classroom, and it was great to hear a different teacher talk about the same curriculum. I really have developed an understanding of what’s going on in the classroom, and I no longer need (although obviously I still appreciate) my mentor teacher’s input on vocabulary when I’m moving throughout the classroom and working with individuals.

Still, working with a small group this week was different. I didn’t really have a lesson plan--the teacher gave me half the class when interest between vocab and social studies was evenly split and there was only time for one activity. I’ve gotten used to using the vocabulary of the classroom on an individual basis, but it’s much harder with a larger group. I still remember the various attention-getters, but I’m starting to realize that my mentor teacher uses them all in slightly different, nuanced situations. I now know that I need to pay closer attention to those different contexts. In a literacy framework, it’s like I thought that I had a full command of all of the classroom discourses, only to find that I was missing a crucial component.

My question for this week is, “How useful is receptive literacy without equal productive literacy? When those skills are out of balance, what happens? What are appropriate responses?”

When I go into my placement, I’m going to actually take notes while I’m there on attention-getters and the contexts where they were used. I will also have more firsthand experience after teaching the lesson.


alesnick's picture

receptive and productive literacy

This is a very useful distinction.  I connect it right away with Gee's distinction between learning and acquisition.  It sounds as if you have used a blend of unconscious and deliberate learning to gain fluency with your placement's lexicon.  I wonder whether a key issue is role: when you were leading a group, you wanted to deploy the local language with more authority than you felt you needed before?  Another question is what the role is of idiosyncratic variation in the placement's lexicon.  How free are you to bring your own language to it? 

allisonletts's picture

A list of attention-getters