Accelerating Young Mind’s Focus on Vocabulary
Of the many compelling reasons for providing students with instruction to build vocabulary, none is more important than the contribution of vocabulary knowledge to reading comprehension. Indeed, one of the most enduring findings in reading research is the extent to which students’ vocabulary knowledge relates to the mind images created through cognitive learning and real world experience. Given that students’ success in school and beyond depends in great measure upon their ability to read with comprehension, there is a urgency to providing instruction that equips students with the skills and strategies necessary for lifelong vocabulary development.
How many words does an elementary child need to know? To understand the magnitude of this task, it is necessary to examine what learning a certain number of words would require in terms of instruction. To directly teach students even 3,000 words a year would mean teaching, and the child remembering, approximately 17 words each school day (e.g., 3,000 words/180 school days). Estimates vary, but reviews of classroom intervention studies suggest that, in general, no more than 8 to 10 words can be taught effectively each week. This means that no more than approximately 400 words can be taught in a year. Using a simple calculation, 3,000 – 400 = 2,600, the conclusion is that students must find ways other than direct classroom instruction to learn words.