Learn to Teach: Building Vocabulary through Children's Literature with Linda Gerena


On Tuesday, December 2nd, we held the first talk of our series Learning to Teach: Meetings with Parents and Teachers. Our speaker was Dr. Linda Gerena, who joined us on a visit from the US, where she is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education at York College, City University of New York. Dr. Gerena's talk wastitled Building Vocabulary through Children's Literature.


December 2014 Linda Gerena 020 December 2014 Linda Gerena 012Linda shared many strategies with us, the most important of which was Read, Read, Read! She encouraged both parents and teachers to read to and with children as much as possible, and to discuss interesting, new or difficult words with children. She explained that children need at least 15 meaningful exposures to a new word in order to properly understand and apply it, and that using a dictionary to learn words is one of the least effective methods.

December 2014 Linda Gerena 025The audience listened to a story, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (available in our Library) and brainstormed vocabulary words that they could work on with children, in class or at home. Linda demonstrated strategies such as looking at the illustrations in the book during a “Bookwalk”, Giving examples of what words mean, and identifying synonyms and antonyms for the word. She also discussed the importance of recognizing cognates between English and Spanish, as 40% of English words have Latin roots. Looking at parts of words such as prefixes, suffixes and root words is also important in developing life-long vocabulary skills.

December 2014 Linda Gerena 028Dr. Gerena also recommended the use of graphic organizer as tools for supporting multi-dimensional vocabulary work, rather than the traditional method of writing a definition/translation and a sentence with the word.

Here are some pages with graphic organizers that can be used with primary children:

Enchanted Learning

Scholastic (for vocabulary and reading comprehension)

Word Maps on Reading Rockets

Article about using Graphic Organizers on Colorin Colorado

Colorin Colorado is a fantastic bilingual resource for parents and teachers. Here's an article about using words to teach other words in English and in Spanish.December 2014 Linda Gerena 026

Reading and working on vocabulary in Spanish will also help children to have a strong base for vocabulary learning in English. here are some Graphic Organizers in Spanish.

word walls are another tool to provide visual support for word study, and for making connections between words and concepts. Some examples:

From Reading Rockets: Word Walls for different subjects

Word Wall Strategies

Scholastic: Word Walls That Work

Dr. Gerena has also kindly shared the notes from her session with us.

notes Building Vocabulary To Support Language Acquisition 12-2-14
Here is a link to the talk Linda gave here at the Institute in November 2012. We hope to see her at the Institute again in 2015! Thank you all for coming!