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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 Bloom’s 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
• Immersion
▫ 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

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 docview/206037475/fulltextPDF?source=fedsrch&accountid=11752# • Cheathem Hill Elementary School. Vocabulary Activities. Retrieved from 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.