Today, I’d like to talk vocabulary. Recently, I read some very shocking research on vocabulary, and I think it is often overlooked in the rush of daily lessons. So I’ll start with the research.
Earlier this week, I blogged over on Thinking Out Loud about the types of words to teach and an introduction about how to teach them. In preparing to write that post, I went back through the research I had completed for a vocabulary workshop I presented to the staff at my school, and I was reminded about why many of our children struggle with comprehension in the upper grades. The statistics really are shocking and left me feeling motivated to beef up vocabulary instruction within my classroom and to work toward educating parents on the importance of talking to their children.
- Vocabulary knowledge accounts for over 80% of the variance in reading comprehension scores at grade level.
- In the 4th grade, 70% of the problem in reading comprehension is vocabulary.
- In a study by Hart and Risley, it was found that the vocabulary gap starts at age three. In low interaction homes, children acquire 2 words per day versus children in average interactive homes who gain 5 words per day versus children in high interaction homes who gain 9 words per day. (This really made me think about how very important early intervention and preschool is.)
- High knowledge third graders had vocabularies about equal to the lowest-performing 12th graders. (So without strong intervention, by 12th grade, the knowledge gap between high and low performing students is huge which we know is true.)
- By the end of second grade, kids have an average of 5500 root words that they understand versus struggling students who have an average of 3500 root words. High achieving students have an average of 7500 root word.
- First grade children from higher SES groups knew about twice as many words as lower SES children.
- Big gaps in word knowledge makes catching up difficult even thought once in school children appear to acquire new vocabulary at similar rates. To catch up, vocabulary disadvantaged children will have to acquire vocabulary at above average rates.
Beck, I., McKeown, M., Kucan, L., (2002). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction.
Hart, B., Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful Differences. Baltimore: Brookes. Co.
Biemiller, A. Teaching Vocabulary: Early, Direct and Sequential. The American Evaluator, 25 (1), 24-28.
The Partnership for Reading, (2003) Put Reading First: The research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read. NIFL. www.nifl.gov.
So now what?
- As you teach, you use “juicy” words and follow them with context.
- You challenge students to improve word usage within their writing, keeping thesauruses and dictionaries readily available.
- You read a variety of texts to your students at a higher level than they can read on their own pointing out the colorful language as you read it.
- Teach figurative language and Tier 2 vocabulary through the use of Think Aloud to scaffold your students’ thinking.
- Post Wow words in strategic places and place them on index cards to pull out during transitions to review with various games.
- Use vocabulary word cards in center games to increase exposure.
- Have students keep a personal dictionary to record the wow words they use.
- Teach a Word of the Day and assign students as the Word Wizard.
I hope I’ve given you a few ideas, and I look forward to hearing yours. What ideas for vocabulary have worked well for you? Share them in the comments below if you have a minute.