User Tools

Site Tools



Vocabulary consists of any grouping of knowledge at the individual word or concept level for meaning encoded in print, oral language, symbol system or explicit taxonomy vocabularies.

In terms of vocabulary in school settings we often refer to words students, “need to read increasingly demanding texts” (Lehr, Osborne, Heibert, 2004)

What Does Research Say?

We know from research we learn vocabulary incrementally and multiple meanings make learning vocabulary difficult. This can range from partial word level knowledge and use, to conceptual understanding,and then comparing conceptions (Nagy & Scott, 2009). Take the word force for example. I could understand how to define it in physics, use the concept of force in equations, or compare force to other domains such as politics.

Given that we expand vocabulary in increments it is no surprise research demonstrates vocabulary cuts across many dimensions of knowledge and not just words (Nagy & Scott, 2009. For example Oral Language and Vocabulary and the Vocabulary and Comprehension all impact vocabulary acquisition.

Learning words, like words themselves relies on their interrelated nature. We often learn about words without reading or writing the words themselves (Nagy & Scott, 2009). An article on birds may impact vocabulary learned earlier in an article about penguins, for example. We also know, based on this inter-related nature we must move from defining vocabulary to actively using the concepts in reading and writing (Graves, 1986) through Vocabulary and Word Play.

Part of this inter-related nature lives at the intersection of spelling, morphology,and meta-linguistics. By learning to spell words through word building activities students learn how to decode words while understanding meaning. In the early grades this means knowing about the morpheme -s or -ed which can make words plural or past tense. In later grades students may learn adding the suffix -tion turns a word into a noun. Anglin (1997) notes that in fifth grade students learn around 5,000 root words but 15,000 derivative meanings built using prefixes and suffixes.

Given the findings around incremental learning of vocabulary through multi-dimensional domains of interrelated knowledge, it is no surprise that single exposure to words (Beck & McKeown, 1993) or relying solely on context around words works in school.

Therefore teachers need to focus on Choosing Vocabulary Words with an emphasis on Academic Language.

In the Classroom

In the classroom when teaching vocabulary you rely on words as an essential part of your reading comprehension or content learning. You need to make semantic, morphological, and multiple meaning connections.

When you assign Word-Learning Task as a teacher you utilize using different relationships between words and concepts to learn vocabulary

  • Known word & Known concept
  • Ex. Weather and rain
  • New word & Known concept
  • Ex. Meteorology & precipitation
  • Known word & New concept
  • Ex. Pressure & storm watch/warning
  • New word & New concept
  • Ex. Humidity & hygrometer

Four methods for learning unknown words:

  1. Context Clues: learning new words by knowing meaning of old words. Looking around the word within the text for hints. Seeing or hearing word in other contexts
  2. Morphemic Analysis: using parts/roots of the word to approximate meaning4.
  3. Expert Advice: Asking teacher, parent, sibling, friend, etc.
  4. Dictionaries

Students need multiple exposures to multiple forms of a word across multiple modalities. In terms of skills you must teach Non-contextual vs Contextual Vocabulary Instruction. Contextual Vocabulary Instruction often relies on comprehension skills of looking for implicit and explicit definitions within a text. On the other hand, Non-contextual Vocabulary Instruction may rely on explicit teaching of vocabulary outside of the text.

Given the small number of of word families that make up the focus of vocabulary lessons but the complexity of words having multiple meanings explicit rich vocabulary instruction helps English Language Learners develop literacy skills in both languages.

Overall, while we focus on explicit and rich vocabulary instruction the greatest amount of words learned occurs through Varied Reading and Vocabulary. That is the only way to truly develop new connections to new meanings.

You can not truly know all the words someone knows and given the subject specific nature of language Vocabulary and Assessment gets challenging. You can not take a diagnostic vocabulary test, but we often use vocabulary to test knowledge

vocabulary.txt · Last modified: 2022/04/11 23:25 by jgmac1106