Vocabulary is an integral part of literacy. A good vocabulary promotes comprehension and communication. Vocabulary size predicts comprehension. According to W.B Elley, Emeritus professor of Education, Vocabulary is the best single indicator of intellectual ability and an accurate predictor of success at school.
The results of the 2018 PISA indicate that the US scores in the average range for reading: 13th out of the 79 countries and regions. And that is the good news! The results also revealed that almost 20% of the high school students who took the PISA test scored so low that they had difficulty with basic aspects of reading. Yet, despite these troubling results, the trend in vocabulary study has consistently declined. A study published in Science Direct states:The vocabulary of the average U.S. adult declined between the mid-1970s and the 2010s. Vocabulary declined across all levels of educational attainment.
The de-emphasis on vocabulary is evident in college entrance exams. The only vocabulary assessments that the ACT & SAT include appear in the reading sections, as vocabulary in context. In 2016 the College Board eliminated its sentence completion section. Only the independent school exam, the Secondary School Admission Test, still provides a verbal section that includes tests of synonyms and analogies.
So,it is time for a return to intentional vocabulary learning as part of language arts and English classes. Students need to be explicitly taught methods for intentional vocabulary learning.
- Teaching specific words (rich, robust instruction) to support understanding of texts containing those words.
- Teaching word-learning strategies that students can use independently.
- Promoting the development of word consciousness and using word play activities to motivate and engage students in learning new words.
Stay tuned for the next article that will provide information about one method of vocabulary study.