Marzano’s Six Step Process to Teaching Academic Vocabulary
Six is the magic number. My last blog looked at Konza’s take on vocabulary as a part of her big 6 in understanding the reading process. Today’s blog will look at Marzano’s six step process to teaching academic vocabulary. I love this process for the explicit and deep teaching of vocabulary as it can be used in any year level and for any learning area.
This is an example of selecting an essential word from a year 8/9 biology unit. I deliberately chose a year level and learning area that were unfamiliar to me.
Teaching the word: mutualism
1. Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term. (Include a non-linguistic representation of the term for ESL kids.)
The idea is to make this interesting and something that students will remember.
Telling a joke: What’s worse than a giraffe with a sore throat? Why, a crocodile with a toothache, of course.
Showing a photograph and telling an interesting story. Introduce the Nile crocodile, an animal that is a messy eater and cannot move food from side to side as its jaws only open and close. It also can’t move food around with its tongue and this results in food becoming caught in its teeth which attracts parasites, bacteria and leeches. Thankfully the Egyptian plover works mutually with the crocodile. The crocodile beeches itself, remains very still and leaves its mouth open. The plover enters the crocodile’s mouth and eats the scraps and parasites – a win win situation. The plover gets to eat and the crocodile gets it teeth cleaned. (This would also be a great teaching moment to show where Egypt and the Nile river are located).
The crocodile and plover have a mutualistic relationship – one where both of them benefit. In science, we call this mutualism. This is one of the three types of symbiotic relationships, the other two being commensalism and parasitism.
Using a video clip: I found a short video clip that added to the description.
2. Ask students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words. (Allow students whose primary existing knowledge base is still in their native language to write in it.)
Oral rehearsal: give students time to discuss what mutualism is (pairs or small groups) and then have them rewrite the definition in their own words. If this is a second language, let students write the word and its meaning in their first language.
3. Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic representing the word.
Model first: Some students will be reluctant to draw but the idea is to have some kind of graphic representation that will help them remember the word.
Share: Sharing the different representations helps students see others ways the word can be represented.
4. Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their notebooks.
There are lots of ways students can practise using the word and broadening their understanding of it. Writing synonyms or antonyms. Finding similarities or differences. Completing an analogy – Mutualism is to symbiosis as ____________ is to ___________. (As mutualism is one of the types of symbiosis, I wrote …as an edge is to a triangle).
5. Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another. (Allow in native language when appropriate).
Oral rehearsal is vital and giving students time to talk about the word and all its accompanying vocabulary enhances student knowledge. This can be done as Think-Pair-Shares. As you have seen this step has been done when students rewrote their definitions and drew their graphic representations. They could explain any new learning or clarify confusions or disagreements. Allow time for students to make any revisions.
6. Involve students periodically in games that allow them to play with terms.
There are so many games that can be played: Pictionary, memory, jeopardy, charades, talk a mile a minute, bingo, create a skit…
For the word mutualism I made a simple game that matched images of animals in symbiotic relationships to a human representation – mutualism – sea anemone and clown fish – students helping one another with an assignment, commensalism – barnacles on a whale and student copying neighbour’s homework, parasitism – flea on a dog and someone taking another child’s tuckshop money.
Look at all the words the students would have learned by examining this one word in detail. Mutualism – mutual, mutualistic, commensalism, parasitism, plover, Nile, Egyptian, relationship and the list goes on.
It would also be an opportunity to explore the meaning and use of the suffix –ism.
All of these steps should be modelled first (I would use the gradual release of responsibility – I do, we do, you do together, you do alone). The steps can also be done in any order and can be completed over a period of days as students explore the word deeper. Some steps can overlap.
Selecting a word for study
To select a word for study, I like Fisher and Frey’s guidelines:
- Is the word representative of an essential idea or concept?
- Will the word be used repeatedly within and across units of instruction?
- Is the word transportable across other disciplines?
- Does the use of the word invite contextual analysis?
- Does the word offer an opportunity for structural analysis?
- Do the selected word honour the learner’s cognitive load?
From: The Value of Intentional Vocabulary Instruction in the Middle Grades