Literacy Team makes students more cognizant of vocab

Marissa Payne, Feature Editor

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When students sit down to write an essay in their English classes, they often brainstorm synonyms for words in their paper in hopes that fancy vocabulary will boost their grades. To help students gain the vocabulary necessary to thrive in school and become more competent consumers of information, administrators, guidance counselors and teachers from all departments have joined forces to form the Literacy Team.
Together, these school officials have been planning the literacy initiative since last school year. Over the course of the next two semesters, 30 words will each be featured as a word of the week. The hope is that students will be able to apply these words to both academics and their lives outside of school.
“Each department in the school gave the Literacy Team three words that were interesting to them,” English department chair Melissa Thurlwell said. “We just asked them to think of words that students struggle with in that discipline, and then we chose words that were versatile and might have more than one meaning.”
“This was something that other departments had been asking for for years,” English teacher Rachel Lesinski said. “When we came together as the Literacy Team, vocabulary kept coming up time and time again across disciplines.”
Vocabulary can be a tricky thing to master because words sometimes are associated with multiple meanings, so the Literacy Team felt it was important to show students the versatility words can have.
“Saying you understand a word is a lot more than knowing one definition,” English teacher and Reading Specialist Rachel Lesinski said. “Especially in the English language, words take on connotations and denotations, so oftentimes a word that you think means a certain thing will also take on other nuances within context.”
To expose students to the selected words, the Literacy Team brainstormed different ways to reach students and make the words of the week meaningful.
“We have made three different display cases throughout the school, we have table tents down in the cafeteria, we’re hanging posters each week, every teacher in the building has a handout to put on his or her wall and then we have our daily announcements,” Thurlwell said.
Although some students might make the assumption that the majority of their peers already know the words, a vocabulary test administered in August proved the contrary.
“Surprisingly, the results were that the majority of our students, seniors included, only knew about half of the words on our list,” librarian Jennifer Naes said. “While the announcements may seem bothersome to many, research supports that students need to be exposed to a new word multiple times in different ways in order for the word to become internalized.”
Naes also stresses the importance of allowing other students the chance to learn vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to them.
“For [students who struggle with vocabulary], this is a chance to learn vocabulary in a non-threatening way,” Naes said. “30 seconds during the morning announcements is a small sacrifice to make if it means that even one student gained a deeper understanding of a word previously not known. Especially since having a high vocabulary is commonly linked with success in college, the amount of money someone will earn in their lifetime and overall happiness.”

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Literacy Team makes students more cognizant of vocab