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Literacy strategies

In psychology, students encounter a lot of unfamiliar, specialist vocabulary. While students who are confident readers will take this new vocabulary in their stride, those who aren’t will find that it adds to their already considerable difficulties in making sense of text. Teachers can use a variety of strategies to help.

Identify and define important vocabulary

Each week, get students to add new words to a vocabulary list in the centre of their books. These should be words that are related to current learning. One way of doing this is to have the students write down the new word, then:

  • find the meaning (from dictionary)
  • choose one synonym and one antonym (from thesaurus – optional)
  • use the word in a sentence (the student generates a sentence that uses word correctly).

By using the word in a sentence, the student demonstrates that they understand the meaning of the word.

Do this every week, introducing 6–10 new words at a time.

Another strategy is to use focus words as a tool to assist students to learn the relationships between words. Taking a focus word, for example, ‘cognitive’, students build a word chart in their books, using the dictionary, a thesaurus, or their own ideas.

Use learning logs

Some teachers have found that learning logs are an effective means of gaining insight into how individual students are managing their learning, and any issues that they are encountering. They can also be effective in helping students to learn.

  • Learning logs should not be assessed. They are a means of generating dialogue between student and teacher.
  • Learning logs should be built into the programme as part of everyday work.
  • Students should be allocated a limited time to write entries in their learning logs (usually at the end of the lesson).
  • Learning logs should focus on specific tasks, activities, key concepts, or learning strategies.
  • Teachers should read learning logs regularly and write brief feedback for each student.

See Effective Literacy Strategies, page 152.

Last updated November 21, 2017