There is no doubt that vocabulary learning is an essential part of developing reading fluency. How we go about it is often where we derail.
- Weak Readers have poor vocabulary skills, often because they are just not exposed to higher level vocabulary. Too often struggling readers have difficulty even understanding grade level texts because they lack the skills to decode the vocabulary words within the text. (Biemiller, 1999) The way to break the cycle is to enable understanding of critical words through vocabulary instruction and practice.
- Repetition improves vocabulary. Learning new words, practicing those words, and playing vocabulary games is proven to increase vocabulary retention. Repeated encounters with new words are what help us to assimilate those words into our daily vocabulary.
- An environment rich with strong oral language can improve vocabulary growth. Students who are immersed in a word rich environment and who are read to will extend their recognition of new words and the ability to use those words in context. (Elley, 1988)
- Listening comprehension and reading comprehension are correlated! Reading aloud is an essential way to improve listening comprehension, as well as using listening vocabulary games. It’s not all about print, but the ability to understand both orally and in print is fundamental.
- Typical vocabulary instruction is not over-rated. The direct instruction of vocabulary combined with reading is the most effective. Remember, the good old fashioned vocabulary list? Or the focus words we studied before we read a story? Yep! Most effective! (Steve Stahl and Marilyn Fairbanks, 1986)