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 home >> Essentials for Reading Success: Components of Reading: Vocabulary

A Florida State University Center


Vocabulary refers to the pronunciation and meanings of words necessary for communication.

Vocabulary knowledge is often divided into two categories: oral vocabulary (listening and speaking) and print vocabulary (reading and writing). The role of vocabulary instruction in the classroom is to expand the oral vocabulary while developing an extensive print vocabulary. The ultimate goal of vocabulary instruction, within the context of reading instruction, is to help students learn the meanings of many words in order to improve reading comprehension.
Vocabulary instruction should provide students with an understanding of the meaning and use of words. This enables them to comprehend what they read and communicate effectively. Components of an effective vocabulary program include indirect and direct methods. Vocabulary can be acquired indirectly by engaging in discussion sessions after listening to recorded books on audio, teacher read-alouds, or reading independently. Direct methods include the explicit teaching of specific words and word-learning strategies.
When teaching vocabulary, select 12 – 15 words per week that are outside of the students’ current oral vocabulary and that the students are likely to encounter frequently in text. The words should be interesting, useful, and offer students a more sophisticated way of expressing familiar concepts. Multiple exposures to the meaning of unfamiliar words deepen students‘ understanding of a specific word and how it functions in different contexts. Word-learning strategies include morphemic analysis to understand the meaningful parts of words and contextual analysis to infer the meaning from the surrounding text and definitions. Teachers should be aware that dictionary definitions are frequently not helpful to young students and the teacher will need to provide a “student-friendly” definition (e.g., “fortunate” –when you are lucky, or “absurd" -when something is silly or goofy). Students develop an increased interest in and awareness of words when rich and varied vocabulary experiences are provided.
Powerful Vocabulary Instruction Includes: