BOOKS

Cover of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary
Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary
B. Overturf, L. Montgomery, and M. Holmes Smith; Pembroke Publishers, 2013184 pages, $25.95
*****
Reviewed by Kim Fry

As a self-proclaimed word nerd, I was immediately drawn to the title of the book. Written by a team of teachers, Word Nerds points to years of research that links vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension with how a focus on word knowledge is especially important for narrowing the achievement gap for students from low-income communities.

Word Nerds starts with an overview of the extensive research on vocabulary instruction, and by drawing on it proposes key components for strengthening instruction. Strategies such as repeated exposure to words, patterns of word learning (word schemas), reading a wide variety of different texts, rich conversations with adults and peers, playing with words, and direct instruction are all highlighted. Although the overview is helpful, it is the in-depth discussions of how to apply this theory that makes this book such a valuable resource.

Where Word Nerds excels is in its vivid description of literacy programs that have at their core vocabulary instruction. The authors describe a step-by-step routine that they call their “vocabulary cycle.” They introduce words in a variety of ways but always include a vocabulary journal as a critical component. They then add synonyms and antonyms and practise the words using a lot of creative activities, before celebrating the learning and assessing understanding. The activities also foster dialogue about words because the authors found that students need more than dictionaries, thesauruses, and word walls to know words deeply.

What I found most inspiring about Words Nerds was the infectious enthusiasm for the beauty of language and the ideas for how to build this kind of exuberance in the classroom. The authors describe a genuine desire on the part of their students to search out what they call “juicy words.” From scrambles to drama, and word charades to raps, the book outlines games and activities for the whole class, small groups, and independent work.

I highly recommend Word Nerds as an excellent resource for elementary educators. It is both inspiring and methodical in giving tools and resources to teachers who want to make vocabulary instruction a more central part of their literacy program.

Kim Fry is a member of the Toronto Occasional Teacher Local.

MORE BOOKS

Cover of book To Teach: The Journey, in Comics
William Ayers and Ryan Alexander-Tanner. Teachers College Press, 2010. 144 pages, $26.08 (paperback)
Cover of book Courageous Women Rebels
Joy Crysdale. Second Story Press, 2013. 124 pages, $10.95
Cover of Witness: Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations by Compiled by Eli Rubenstein, with the March of the Living
Compiled by Eli Rubenstein, with the March of the Living. Second Story Press, 2015. 136 pages, $32.95
The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International
Rosemary McCarney with Plan International. Second Story Press 2015, 32 pages, $18.95
Cover of School Days Around the World by Margriet Ruurs and Alice Feagan
Margriet Ruurs and Alice Feagan. Kids Can Press, 2015 40 pages, $19.95
Cover of Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanaine, illustrated by Claudia Davila
Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanaine, illustrated by Claudia Davila. Kids Can Press, 2015 48 pages, $18.95
Cover of Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth. Triangle Square, 2015 160 pages, $17.29
Cover of The Art of Possible
Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin. Owlkids Books, 201563 pages, $17.95

Pages