Evidence-based Reading Instruction: Vocabulary: Research and Teaching Strategies

E. Jacobson
S. Ianiro
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It is important to note that this series of four resources for each of the four components of reading -- alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension – contains digests, not comprehensive descriptions of the components. Each research digest provides a definition of the component, the need for the component, how to assess the component, how to teach and learn the component, teaching strategies, suggestions for professional development, and additional resources. The value of these digests is that they provide a snap shot introduction to the four components of reading that may be helpful to a teacher new to teaching reading to adults. They also provide some resources to extend learning. The article recommends “The Word Meaning Test” as a simple assessment of vocabulary level. The vocabulary strategies include: direct instruction, multiple contexts for word meanings, teaching frequency words, teaching word learning strategies, “New word of the day,” word journals, quadrant charts, and word card games.

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What the experts say

(Three experts reviewed this resource with two accepting and one rejecting it for inclusion in the LINCS Basic Skills Reading Collection.)

The resource is valuable to teachers in presenting specific strategies for developing vocabulary in adult education classrooms. Although the research base for vocabulary development lies primarily with K-12 studies, the resource does describe strategies from the adult education literature. Perhaps the most important aspect of developing reading vocabulary is the teacher’s emphasis on vocabulary in the classroom. If the teacher is interested in words, students will be also, leading to the development of their reading vocabularies. Vocabulary development discourages the tendency to emphasize decoding without meaning. This digest summarizes research, assessment and instructional suggestions clearly and concisely. In the case of vocabulary, where the research literature is vast and inconsistent, this is not a mean feat.

In particular, the section on direct instruction should be helpful to teachers. Curtis’ contribution in this regard is an important one. Hopefully this digest will give teachers enough information to follow.

While there are some useful pointers, the examples are bad or meaningless. The word “lark” for example has multiple meanings, but none really important in the adult context. Generally vocabulary instruction in the adult classroom has been constrained by specific goals such as the GED, pre-vocational, or post-secondary preparation. The assumptions here in this resource are text based and appropriate to middle school classrooms and are too generic to be of great use.