How to Boost Students’ Vocabulary by 2,250 Words Per Year!

PART 1: SCHOOL LIBRARIES CAN HELP CLOSE THE VOCABULARY GAP. 

The benefits when students read  for pleasure are well-documented in reading research.  In fact reading research shows that no amount of direct daily classroom  instruction can match the significant vocabulary growth experienced when students engage in daily independent reading for pleasure.“Most of the words adults know were acquired while reading independently, not from vocabulary lessons.” And in fact, the more vocabulary students acquire, the easier it becomes to learn and understand  even more complex words (Allington et al.2015).

In a previous post it was noted:” If young males are provided with reading materials that interest them, they will read .”  This applies not only to young male readers. By providing reading materials that appeal to a wide range of personal interests and tastes, we can encourage all our students to read more. The more students read, the more they are exposed to a larger number of words in context– significantly more than could ever be taught in class (Fisher & Frey 2014). When students also have the opportunity to talk about books they are reading, comprehension, motivation, engagement and language development increases (Hudson & Williams 2015).

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What Language Research tells us:

  • Vocabulary is a significant predictor of overall reading comprehension. When readers know a lot of words, they can read more complex texts (Fisher & Frey 2014).
  • If students engage in independent reading 60 minutes per day, five days a week, they will read more than 2,250,000 words per year and learn 2,250, which is far more than could ever be taught through direct instruction alone (Fisher & Frey 2014).
  •  Students typically learn only 8-10 new words per week, through traditional vocabulary instruction (learning lists of words); this is a fraction of what they need to know. As academic texts contain up to 200,000 words, students would need to learn 20-30 words per day to have the requisite word knowledge to read and understand them (Goodwin & Perkins 2015).
  • Many children, for a variety of reasons, have a significant vocabulary deficit upon entering school and throughout their elementary school years (Manyak et al 2014). If students do not have access to books in the home, or libraries outside school, the only personal reading they may ever do is at school. Which makes the school library even more important in helping to close the vocabulary gap. 
  • The average high school student knows about 40,000 words and students from disadvantaged backgrounds know significantly less. (Graves et al 2014).By grade nine, students  need to know and understand 88,500 word families, in order to be able to proficiently read complex academic texts in high school (Fisher & Frey 2014).

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THE SCHOOL LIBRARY NEEDS TO BE A TOP PRIORITY WHEN PLANNING  SCHOOL BUDGETS

A carefully planned and well-stocked library does not come cheap, but considering the evidence that shows the long term-literacy benefits for students, school libraries are well worth the investment.

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School staff often have no idea what books cost, here are a couple of visuals to help.This is what $2,000 worth of books looks like (purchased Dec 2015),  in 4 cartons and the same books on a bookshelf (70cm wide). This would be a drop in the bucket in a large urban school. School libraries need adequate and consistent funding to allow TLs to build a collection that ensures that a wide range of genres and formats are available for students to read.

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PART 2 (January 2016): STRATEGIC VOCABULARY INSTRUCTION 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The following full-text articles can be accessed through EBSCO. Passwords for TDSB staff are available on Learnmarks (Tippett Professional Library)

  • Allington, R.L., McCuiston,K., Billen, M. (2015) What Research says about Text Complexity and Learning to Read. Reading Teacher, 68(7)
  • Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2014). Content Area Vocabulary Learning. Reading Teacher, 67(8).
  • Goodwin, A.P., Perkins, J. (2015). Word Detectives.  Reading Teacher. 68(7) .
  • Graves, M. F., Baumann, J. F., Blachowicz, C. Z., Manyak, P., Bates, A., Cieply, C., & Von Gunten, H. (2014). Words, Words Everywhere, But Which Ones Do We Teach? Reading Teacher, 67(5), 333­346.
  • Hudson, A.K., and Williams, J.A.,(2015). Reading Every Single Day. Reading Teacher, 68(7) .
  • Manyak, P. C., Gunten, H. V., Autenrieth, D., Gillis, C., Mastre­O’Farrell, J., Irvine­McDermott, E., & … Blachowicz, C. L. (2014). Four Practical Principles for Enhancing Vocabulary Instruction. Reading Teacher, 68(1), 13­23
  • Serafini, F. (2013). Supporting Boys as Readers.  Reading Teacher. Sep  67 (1)

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