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Strategies to Increase Vocabulary Development

Elana Hassett and Jacquie Kramer

The Vocabulary Gap

Due to oral language differences, students enter school with varying levels of vocabulary
Words heard per hour Words heard in a 100-hour week Words heard in a 5,200 hour year Words heard in 4 years

Group A: (Welfare homes)

616 1,251

62,000 125,000

3 million 6 million

13 million 26 million

Group B: (Working Class homes)

Group C: (Professional homes)



11 million

45 million

(Hart & Risley, 1995)

Importance of Vocabulary Instruction

Vocabulary knowledge is strongly linked to literacy development, reading comprehension, and overall school achievement As teachers, it is our job to close the vocabulary gap so that all students are on a level playing field

Ineffective Practices
Definition Copying

Using Context Clues

These methods employ the lowest level of learning on Blooms Taxonomy and therefore are highly unlikely to ensure understanding

Effective Practices
Select specific vocabulary words that relate to the lesson and build on students prior knowledge Focus on Tier 2 vocabulary words

Generate interest in new words

Provide multiple exposure to new words in varied contexts

By teaching thematically students can be exposed to words in a read-aloud, then in the art center, etc.

Effective Practices
Vocabulary building through read alouds
Pre-select the words First reading should be without any interruptions Second reading- interrupt reading to explain meaning of target words Repeated reading/exposure of chosen words is needed
takes 15 encounters with a new word for a student to be able to apply it

Instruction on word-learning strategies

Enables children to determine meaning of new words they encounter when reading independently

Effective Practices
Students should be given independent reading time Encourage reading at home (wide reading) Provide a variety of texts with a variety of purposes Promote oral language development
students need time to engage in frequent conversations with peers and teachers

Effective Practices
Maintaining Vocabulary
Keep tally sheets/point system Relate previous vocab words to new lessons Classify words, graphic organizers Incorporate vocab daily Repeated exposure and review of words

Vocabulary Applications
Thematic Units
Allow students to have repeated exposure to target words

Student created books featuring target words

Vocabulary Applications
Semantic Gradients: an array of related words placed on a continuum
Allows students to make connections between known words and new vocabulary Helps to discern shades of meaning


Vocabulary Applications
Word Maps
Type of graphic organizer Useful for students to develop deeper understanding of a target word

Word Sorts
Open sorts and Closed sorts

Need to be taught to be effective

(http://ed401spring10.wikispace s.com)

Word Walls/Interactive Word Walls

Brassel, D. (2009). Dare to differentiate: Vocabulary strategies for all students. New England Reading Association Journal, 44(2), 1-6. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy3.library.jhu.edu/ docview/206037475/fulltextPDF?source=fedsrch&accountid=11752# Cheathem Hill Elementary School. Vocabulary Activities. Retrieved from http://www.cobbk12.org/cheathamhill/lfs%20update/vocabulary%20 and%20word%20walls.htm Christ, T., & Wang, X. C. (2010). Bridging the vocabulary gap: What the research tells us about vocabulary instruction in early childhood. Young Children, 65(4), 84-91. Hart, B., & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes. Phillips, D., Foote, C., Harper, L. (2008). Strategies for effective vocabulary instruction. Reading Improvement, 45(2), 62-68.