Newsletter: - Spotlight on Vocabulary. Image description: vocabulary spelled out with letter cubes and the National Center on Improving Literacy Logo which is an illustration of an open book with the pages turning.

This New Year, get back to basics with a refresher on the 5 Big Ideas of Beginning Reading. This month we’re highlighting vocabulary. Vocabulary is knowing what words mean and how to say and use them correctly. Vocabulary is an important part of school success and is also important for making reading comprehension possible. 

What is Vocabulary?

Vocabulary is the glue that holds stories, ideas, and content together to make reading comprehension possible. Students are dependent on vocabulary knowledge so they understand the meanings of words that teachers use and can learn the meanings of new words.

There are four types of vocabulary:

  1. Listening Vocabulary – the words that we hear in spoken language.
  2. Speaking Vocabulary – the words that we use when we speak.
  3. Reading Vocabulary – the words that we read.
  4. Writing Vocabulary – the words that we use when writing.

What Should Vocabulary Instruction Look Like?

Attributes of good vocabulary instruction include:

  • Active student engagement
  • Definitional and contextual information
  • Sufficient instructional time to ensure understanding of words
  • Multiple exposures to words

Teach Vocabulary Directly and Indirectly

Direct vocabulary instruction includes:

  • Active student engagement in rich contexts
  • Explicit instruction through read-alouds and by discussing words for younger students and striving readers
  • Reading aloud from rich texts, using elaborate language, and having fun with language to increase students' word consciousness
  • Teaching meanings of specific words with repetition and multiple exposures
  • Teaching independent word-learning strategies and word meanings when reading with fluent readers and older students
  • Checks for understanding

Indirect vocabulary instruction includes:

  • Engaging in conversations that include academic language
  • Supporting comprehension and use of inferential language
  • Nurturing a love and appreciation of words and their use through quality text
  • Reading a variety of reading materials
  • Reading a lot on various topics

Want to Know More?

Check out our new Literacy Brief and Infographics on Vocabulary!

As well as our Educator's Science of Reading Toolbox: Explicit Vocabulary Instruction to Build Equitable Access for All Learners.

vocabulary-lesson image

And find out more about all the Big Ideas of Beginning Reading



Coming Up

Don't miss this Boston University Wheelock College webinar!

Conversations with the Dean -The Science of Reading: How the National Movement is Playing Out in Teacher Prep

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