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Supporting Vocabulary Development

Students must understand mathematical terminology and key words to gain access to any math problem. You can support them by doing the following:

Isolate important vocabulary terms and phrases by circling or underlining them in the text. Help student notice the difference between every day words and mathematical terms.

Create and maintain a Word Cluster or Vocabulary Chart in the classroom and in students’ notebooks where new terms and their definitions are written in both English and the student’s first language. Pictures are also useful additions. (See Preparing the Classroom Environment, under Planning. Also visit Visuals for ideas about how to use displays to help vocabulary development.)

Practice speaking hard-to-pronounce words verbally as a class. It is beneficial for students to practice reading and pronouncing words correctly. (See Charts, Lists and Timelines under Visuals for five guidelines for simplifying language.)

Use graphic organizers to scaffold learning activities and provide ELL students access to the mathematical content. Graphic organizers include Venn diagrams, concept webs, timelines, lists, outlines, tree diagrams, and charts. For examples of graphic organizers, see this Charts, Lists and Timelines in Visuals.