Help Students Come Up with Their Own De!nitions
The scene that played out in the ninth-grade classroom described above is not isolated to this school on this day. Day after day, teachers ask students to de! ne long lists of words using a dictionary. Chapter 1 discussed how to select important words to teach. Chapter 2 gave strategies to enliven vocabulary study in the classroom. Now we will answer the basic question: how do teachers help students learn the meanings? Looking up a word in a dictionary
and copying the definition, a student does exactly what the student on page 29 described-practices handwriting and copying skills. For many students, this becomes a simple, brainless activity, where little thought or attention is given to the actual definition of the word. In this manner, vocabulary practice is busywork in the worst sense of the word-students are quiet and working, as depicted at the start of the chapter, but little learning is actually taking place. Studies have proven the ineffectiveness of dictionary definitions as the best tool for word study (Scott & Nagy, 1997) or even having an impact on student reading comprehension (Baumann, Kame’enui, & Ash, 2003).