Thursday, June 30, 2016

Yes, Vocabulary Instruction

Re-print: Mazenglish, June 2013

Prior knowledge and a broad vocabulary are the keys to effective reading and English skills.  As a result, the role of vocabulary acquisition cannot be underestimated in the English classroom, from kindergarten to graduate school.  Some studies estimate that lower income children enter school with a word recognition vocabulary that can be as much as 10,000 fewer words than middle and upper income kids.  Realistically, on a usage level middle and upper income kids use know and use 3000-5000 more words than others.  And that is a huge part of the story of the achievement gap.

Now, as the Common Core approaches, and literacy moves to the top of the agenda with its added - and necessary - emphasis in the content areas like social studies, science, and the arts, the role of vocabulary instruction is of paramount importance.  A new round of studies indicate "Students Must Learn More Words" in order to be successful in school.  This is certainly not news to people like E.D. Hirsch or Dan Willingham of the Core Knowledge movement.  They know - and can support with decades of research - that "the more you know, the more you can learn."  From word walls to word games to sophisticated literary offerings, lessons designed around vocabulary acquisition are integral to a successful education and any intent to close the achievement gap.

A plethora of vocabulary instruction manuals are out there these days, but Word Nerds, a new offering from Stenhouse Publishing might be worth looking at.  Any new ideas on improving vocabulary for an increasingly dys-fluent population are to be appreciated and developed.

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