Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why Teach Academic Vocabulary?

Did you know that vocabulary knowledge in first grade can predict students’ reading comprehension in junior year of college? (Cunningham and Stanovich, 1997)  One of the most consistent findings in reading research is the direct link between the depth of students’ vocabulary knowledge and their reading comprehension.  (Baumann, Kame’emui, 2003; Beck, McKeown, 1983) 

The average middle class first grader enters first grade with a vocabulary of about 2,000 words.  Students in lower socio-economic areas enter first grade with a vocabulary ranging from 10 – 2,000 words!  Research Louisa Moats (2001) refers to this gap in word knowledge between advantaged and disadvantaged children as “word poverty.”  When young students don’t have the vocabulary or word learning strategies struggle to achieve comprehension.  They don’t understand what they read and they typically avoid reading.  “Good readers read more, become better readers and learn more words; poor readers read less, become poorer readers, and learn fewer words.” (Stanovich, 1986)

We can’t afford not to make effective vocabulary instruction one of our highest priorities within our instruction.  In their books on robust vocabulary, Isabel Beck and Margaret McKeown showed that, “ A robust approach to vocabulary instruction was quite effective not only for learning the meanings of words but also for affecting reading comprehension.”  A robust approach to vocabulary involves directly explaining the meanings of words along with thought-provoking, playful and interactive follow up.   Students develop vocabulary through: wide reading of a variety of texts, explicit vocabulary instruction focusing on specific words and their meanings, and multiple exposures to new words in various contexts.
I have attached a copy of the instructional sequence for teaching Robust Vocabulary.  I have also attached a  Building Academic Vocabulary poster for you.  You might consider following me. 

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