what is word consciousness and how can it be built?

Vocabulary, ELA Kindergarten, ELA 1st Grade, ELA 2nd Grade, ELA K-2



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What is word consciousness?
Word consciousness is what emerges when children are given rich enough information that helps them to understand the meaning of words deeply and accurately.[1] Word consciousness is an awareness of how language works and how to interact with it. It helps children use the new words they acquire successfully. It also increases the chances of children inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words by themselves.[1]

Developing word consciousness empowers young readers to tackle increasingly difficult texts with confidence, and actually enjoy them.

How is word consciousness built?
Actively engaging with content, and doing so across various contexts, is proven to be particularly effective for vocabulary learning because it builds word consciousness.[2]

For example, by discovering and interacting with more and more words, kids will come to realize things about words such as:
- that a sandcastle is a castle made of sand
- that the suffix -less in reckless and harmless means without
- that the difference between tired and exhausted is one of degree

The more words kids are taught, the more they are capable of learning by themselves. Mrs Wordsmith resources curate words into thematically relevant groups and push learners to make meaningful connections between the words they encounter.

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Sources for further reading:

[1] Coyne, M., McCoach, B., Loftus, S., Zipoli Jr., R., Ruby, M., Crevecoeur, Y., & Kapp, S. (2010) Direct and Extended Vocabulary Instruction in Kindergarten: Investigating Transfer Effects. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness 3(2), 93-120.

[2] Loftus-Rattan, S., Mitchell, A. (2016). ‘Direct Vocabulary Instruction in Preschool: A Comparison of Extended Instruction, Embedded Instruction, and Incidental Exposure’. The Elementary School Journal, 116(3) 391-410.


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