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verbalworkout.com . . . enhancing vocabulary while reading
Why the Suggested Assignments Are Effective
Academic words in each book are ranked according to three main criteria:
  1. How often are words in the book?
  2. How often are they encountered in general communications?
  3. How often do they appear on review lists for SAT-type tests?
The first two criteria help to leverage natural repetition that assists vocabulary growth, while the third helps improve motivation.

Prior to reading the book, students take a quiz where they see a sample sentence for each targeted word. The sentence has a blank in place of the targeted word, but also has a description of the missing word and three words from which to choose. Students need to type the correct word into the computer prior to moving to the next word. If a wrong word is selected, the correct word is automatically added to a review list.

This assignment increases student awareness of targeted words prior to students encountering the words in the authentic context of the book. At the same time, it helps students comprehend the book without interrupting the flow of the story.

After reading the book, the targeted words are reviewed. The post-reading word quiz is identical to the pre-reading quiz except that good sample sentences are chosen from the assigned book.

Because the quizzes take only about fifteen minutes and are checked by the computer, they enhance natural vocabulary growth through reading without detracting from other lessons and aspects of literature. However, while limiting required time the homework meets best practices for incidental vocabulary instruction:
  • a brief preview of the word
  • encountering the word in context
  • a deeper review of the word
  • repetition
This approach is supported by this research:   Show representative citations
  1. It is widely agreed that increased vocabulary facilitates reading comprehension and both academic and vocational success.
  2. Graves, Michael F. (2006). The vocabulary book: learning and instruction, (pp. 2-3). New York: Teachers College Press
    National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
    Snow, Catherine E. (2002). Reading for understanding: toward a research and development program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education

  3. After the 4th grade, the vast preponderance of vocabulary is learned incidentally while reading. Indeed a common refrain in education literature is that the single most important thing you can do to improve students’ vocabularies is to get them to read more.
  4. Anderson, R.C., & Nagy, W.E. (1992, Winter). The vocabulary conundrum. American Educator, 16(4), 14-18, 44-47.
    Cunningham, A.E., & Stanovich, K.E. (1998, Spring/Summer). What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22 (1/2), 8-15.
    Stahl, S.A. (1998). Four questions about vocabulary. In C.R. Hynd (Ed.), Leaning from text across conceptual domains (pp. 73-94). Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.

  5. Word consciousness (an awareness of and interest in words) is crucial to such vocabulary acquisition.
  6. Graves, Michael F. (2006). The vocabulary book: learning and instruction, (pp. 7-8). New York: Teachers College Press.
    Scott, J.A., & Nagy, W.E. (2004). Developing word consciousness. In J.F. Baumann & E.J. Kame’enui (Eds.), Vocabulary instruction: Research to practice (pp.201-217). New York: Guiford Press.

  7. Incidental vocabulary instruction should be brief. It is best to introduce or briefly review the word prior to encountering it in reading and then to review it in greater depth after encountering it in context.
  8. Beck, I.L., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2008). Creating robust vocabulary: frequently asked questions and extended examples. New York: Guilford Press.
    Graves, Michael F. (2006). The vocabulary book: learning and instruction, (pp. 20-23). New York: Teachers College Press.
    National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

  9. If students are permitted to turn in additional word quizzes for books read independently: Allowing students to select their own books to read enhances motivation, deepens thinking, and improves comprehension.
  10. Snow, Catherine E. (2002). Reading for understanding: toward a research and development program in reading comprehension. (pp.41-42). Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education.
    Guthrie, J.T., & Wigfield, A. (2000). Engagement and motivation in reading. In M.L. Kamil, P.B. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, &r. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research: Volume III (pp.403-422). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
While doing the quizzes students are afforded a rich environment that encourages active exploration of words:    Describe the environment
Forms of the word are shown in a size that indicates their relative frequency of usage. Many excellent samples are available and non-vetted examples of usage can be shown from sources in eighteen different subject areas. One student may like finding sample usage in The New York Times while another prefers Sports Illustrated.

For many words, non-linguistic representations are also available. For example, the word concerto, has a link that permits the student to listen to a piano and orchestra play off of each other. The word translucent, provides a link with pictures of translucent objects. Any searches use Google’s SafeSearch technology on “strict” to help assure words or images are appropriate.

Related words and synonyms can be viewed. When appropriate, encyclopedic articles are a click away. Finally, words can be flagged for short-term or long-term review.
Download This Lesson Plan as a Microsoft Word document (including rationale and citations)
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