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Vocabulary development

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Center for Urban Education Research BaseVocabulary development is central to comprehension and contentlearning and should include different strategies embedded ininstruction in content and fiction.Core ElementConnections StructureBasis in ResearchRelevant ResearchVocabularyandvocabularydevelopmentstrategies areintegratedthroughreading andwriting in thecontentareas.Teacher emphasizescontent vocabularydevelopment.Illustrated “word walls”and glossaries.Students identifyimportant words asthey pre-read.Students write with“words of the week”Vocabularyknowledgecontributes toreadingcomprehensionfor readers andwriters at all skilllevels.Stahl,1986. Graves andPrenn, 1986. Carr andWixson, 1986.Duin & Graves, 1987.Nagy, 1988.The following statements are based on research completed in the 1980’s. It hasalready been well established what is needed for effective vocabulary learning. It is theapplication of that very definitive work that has not been accomplished, particularly incontent area vocabulary development, which is a priority area of the Connectionsprogram.To be effective, vocabulary instruction must provide both adequate definitionsand illustrations of how words are used in natural sounding contexts. Based onsurveys of available research (Stahl 1986; Graves and Prenn 1986; Carr andWixson 1986) three priorities of vocabulary instruction that is effective inincreasing reading comprehension can be identified: integration, repetition, andmeaningful use. Intensive instruction is called for if one wants students toincorporate the instructed words onto their writing or speaking vocabularies (Duinand Graves, 1987).Many texts read in school involve large numbers of technical terms and are notconceptually explicit. Definitions alone will not convey new concepts adequately.Intensive vocabulary development instruction is especially useful when new anddifficult concepts are under study. And while all aspects of intensive instructionare important for such concepts, integration—that is, tying the new concept inwith familiar concepts and experience and making the relationships amongconcepts clear—should be a major goal (p. 35).Effective vocabulary instruction helps the learner to use the instructed wordsmeaningfully. One motivation for this property is simply that students learn morewhen they are actively involved. Another is what is called “depth of processing.”Simply stated, the more deeply some information is processed, the more likely itResearch Base Vocabulary 2is to be remembered. In other words, vocabulary instruction that makes studentsthink about the meaning of a word and demands that they do some meaningfulprocessing of the word will be more effective than instruction that does not.There is a big difference between being able to say what a word means andbeing able to use it (p. 24).W. E. Nagy, Teaching Vocabulary to Improve ReadingComprehension, ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading andCommunication Skills, National Council of Teachers of English,and International Reading Association,


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