In general, vocabulary can be described as oral vocabulary or reading vocabulary. Oral vocabulary refers to words that we use in speaking or recognize in listening. Reading vocabulary refers to words we recognize or use in print.
Vocabulary plays an important part in learning to read. Beginning readers must use the words they hear orally to make sense of the words they see in print. Consider, for example, what happens when a beginning reader comes to the word dig in a book. As she begins to figure out the sounds represented by the letters d, i, g, the reader recognizes that the sounds make up a very familiar word that she has heard and said many times. It is harder for a beginning reader to figure out words that are not already part of their speaking (oral) vocabulary.
Vocabulary also is very important to reading comprehension. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. As children learn to read more advanced texts, they must learn the meaning of new words that are not part of their oral vocabulary.
There are four types of vocabulary:
- Listening vocabulary – the words we need to know to understand what we hear
- Speaking vocabulary – the words we use when we speak
- Reading vocabulary – the words we need to know to understand what we read
- Writing vocabulary – the words we use in writing
Adapted from: Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, 2001
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