Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It’s a Good Thing! Martha Speaks

You know Martha.

Martha lives in a well-appointed house with nicely manicured grounds. Martha is creative, enterprising, and has a way with words. Martha is also quite the gourmand, and knows her way around a tureen of vegetable soup. I’m referring, of course, to the loquacious canine Martha, from Martha Speaks. First introduced in the children’s books by Susan Meddaugh and later turned into an animated TV series by PBS Kids and WGBH Boston, Martha Speaks focuses on vocabulary development for 4-to-7-year olds.

Young learners build their vocabularies in various ways. They listen to adults and other children around them, they ask questions about pictures and objects, they discover the meaning of words in context through watching TV, plays, and other types of media. Reading, of course, is perhaps the most vital component in vocabulary development for children and adults alike. Research has long established a strong link between students’ vocabularies and their reading comprehension.

Developing readers often benefit from peer-based reading activities, where two or more students read together. Many schools have instituted literature circles, book clubs, and other programs in which to encourage book discussion, and the attendant themes and vocabulary highlighted in various literary selections. Some programs include a mentoring component, where older students read to younger students, and vice versa. Such “reading buddies” programs are an effective way to model good reading skills, develop fluency, and enhance student self-esteem.

My picks this week focus on vocabulary development activities offered through the Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Program. These are activities that focus on developing literacy skills and word acquisition for young children. As always, please check our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week for additional resources and information on vocabulary development for a variety of ages.

Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Program
This cross-age reading program pairs kindergarteners with 4th or 5th graders to improve their vocabulary and foster a love of books and reading. Buddies watch a brief Martha Speaks episode that introduces new vocabulary words, and Buddies then use a variety of activities to reinforce the new vocabulary, such as reading together, journaling, or playing a game that reinforces the new words.

The Martha Speaks Read-Aloud Book Club
This book club provides a rich environment in which young kids learn to read thoughtfully and discuss books. The central theme is about dogs, where kids view an episode, listen to a book read aloud, discuss the book using new vocabulary, and participate in a hands-on activity. The kids are then encouraged to take library books home to continue learning about dogs.

The Experts Speak: Online Video Tutorials
These video tutorials are aimed at teachers and parents. Renowned literacy experts discuss the importance of teaching vocabulary and how to use up-to-date strategies. Topics include the impact of the vocabulary gap on later learning and how to overcome it; how to expand children's vocabulary; the importance and value of teaching "robust" words; and vocabulary instruction strategies for English language learners.

~Joann's Picks - 9/10/2010~


  1. What a wonderful idea and passion behind Martha speaks! I especially like you reading buddies pick this week.

  2. We liked that Reading Buddies activity, too. I think that giving kindergarteners "buddies" is a great idea in many subject areas. The little kids love it, and the big kids learn a lot through teaching.


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