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Vocabulary

Vocabulary

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. Kids who hear more words spoken at home learn more words and enter school with better vocabularies. This larger vocabulary pays off exponentially as a child progresses through school.

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.

To help build vocabulary skills at home, see our Top Vocabulary Apps >

Featured Video: Vocabulary

For Teachers

Teaching vocabulary is complex. What words are important for a child to know and in what context? In this excerpt from Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, the authors consider what principles might be used for selecting which words to explicitly teach.

Consider some excellent lesson models for teaching vocabulary, explaining idioms, fostering word consciousness, instruction for English Language Learners, and mnemonic strategies.
The scientific research on vocabulary instruction reveals that 1) most vocabulary is learned indirectly, and 2) some vocabulary must be taught directly.
This article provides examples of classroom instructional techniques as well as specific activities for helping students build their vocabularies.
Rather than introducing a new word in isolation, teachers should introduce students to a rich variety of words that share the same root. This approach should help diverse learners including English language learners, make important connections among vocabulary words within the same family, and transfer core ideas across content areas.
Concerns about how to build academic vocabulary and weave its instruction into curricula are common among classroom teachers. This article reviews the research and offers some practical suggestions for teachers.
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