The Six Goals of an Ideal Vocabulary Curriculum

Teacher query: Could you advocate a powerful vocabulary curriculum that my faculty may undertake?

Shanahan’s response:

Because I work with varied corporations, I by no means advocate specific applications.

However, whereas there are vocabulary applications, that is an space the place academics are sometimes anticipated to go their very own manner. Given that, let me recommend the scope of an excellent vocabulary curriculum. My focus right here is on what must be taught, moderately than on the educational approaches wanted to perform this.

Overall, an very best vocabulary curriculum would encourage the educating of six issues.

Word financial institution

First, the perfect vocabulary curriculum would purpose to extend college students’ data of the meanings of particular phrases. Vocabulary data is intently correlated with studying comprehension (Nation, 2009), and there are research by which phrases have been taught completely sufficient to lift studying comprehension (NICHD, 2000). Knowing the meanings of phrases issues.

Vocabulary might be realized each from specific educating and implicitly from any interplay with language, and studying might be an particularly target-rich surroundings for that. A curriculum, of course, would primarily deal with the specific half of the equation. It would specify the phrases regarded as precious for youths’ studying — those we’d monitor to see if progress was being made.

This half of a vocabulary curriculum would come with collections of phrases. The phrases in these collections ought to be price studying (that merely means they need to seem in print regularly in order that understanding them is advantageous), and they need to be well worth the educational time (which implies that college students at this grade degree wouldn’t know them already). There must be a scope and sequence of these phrases in order that academics at completely different grade ranges received’t maintain educating and reteaching the identical phrases time and again.

Given the size of a college yr, the numbers of phrases college students are more likely to retain, and the calls for of overview, I’d purpose to show about 150 phrases per yr (college students will study greater than that on account of implicit studying).


Second, an very best vocabulary curriculum would come with an inventory of key morphemes to be taught; prefixes, suffixes, and mixing kinds. Research helps the worth of such educating (Bowers, Kirby, & Deacon, 2010). But, sadly, it doesn’t present readability with regard to what number of such parts to show, so I can’t estimate as I did with phrases.

As regular, it makes the best sense to show these morphological parts which can be most frequent and there should be grade degree agreements so all people isn’t educating pre- and -able whereas nobody familiarizes the children with -re and -ment.


Third, an essential half of vocabulary studying is growing an means to make use of context to find out meanings of unknown phrases. Good readers can each determine the meanings of phrases they’ve by no means encountered beforehand, they usually can resolve which of a phrase’s meanings is the related one in a given context (you don’t need youngsters pondering that the Gettysburg Address refers to the place Lincoln stayed when he visited Pennsylvania).

Most studying applications don’t do sufficient with this, so we shouldn’t be shocked that college students do such poor job of it. Research (Schatz & Baldwin, 1986) discovered that odds of college students getting phrases proper from context was fairly random. Middle schoolers had been as more likely to mild on an reverse that means as they had been an accurate definition! A phrase like “ebony” was interpreted as that means white as typically as black.

Basically, we spend an excessive amount of time preteaching phrases earlier than studying, however not sufficient on shut questioning to find out whether or not they’ve interpreted a phrase accurately. We actually don’t make investments sufficient in displaying college students use context when studying. That could be an essential half of an very best vocabulary curriculum, and it might be taught through the varied kinds of guided or directed studying actions.


Fourth, no matter occurred to the dictionary? One key component in studying to cope with vocabulary is the educational discover out the meanings of a phrase. These days that’s a bit extra difficult than after I was at school, given the provision of a number of on-line dictionaries, pop-up dictionaries, and the like. Students ought to be taught to make use of these sources all through the elementary grades as acceptable. There are additionally specialised dictionaries, like science dictionaries or historical past dictionaries; these ought to be the province of excessive colleges.

Dictionary instruction seems to be a misplaced artwork. Students must understand how dictionaries work, determine the suitable definition from a dictionary entry, what to do once they don’t perceive a definition, and so forth.

Word selection

Fifth, college students must develop a way of diction, each as readers (or listeners) and as writers (or audio system). Words are advanced and nuanced. They not solely carry the declarative meanings that seem in dictionaries, however they convey attitudes and emotions. It issues whether or not you “question” your college students or in the event you “interrogate” them.

As with the educating of use of context, this half of the instruction is more likely to make the best sense whether it is linked to comprehension or communication. Students want to enhance of their means to discern creator’s perspective or shades of that means based mostly on the creator’s selection of phrases and for older college students it’s important that they arrive to acknowledge how phrase selection influences bias. Such studying might not entail the event of new vocabulary, however the means to implications of vocabulary already recognized.

Word consciousness

Sixth, college students must develop phrase consciousness (or they should study the metalinguistic features of vocabulary (Nagy, 2007)). Here, I can’t let you know a lot from analysis. However, as somebody who recurrently reads textual content in a language that I can not converse and who reads in lots of fields of examine that I’m not particularly effectively versed in (e.g., economics, physics, chemistry, biology, communications, political science), I’ve change into fairly conscious of the significance of vocabulary consciousness.

Good readers — on this case, readers who deal with vocabulary effectively — should be conscious of once they have no idea the that means of a phrase. If you aren’t acutely aware that you simply don’t really know a phrase’s that means, then you’re going to have comprehension issues (as an illustration, do you actually know what “accost” or “voluptuous” imply?). If you’re unaware of your ignorance, then you definitely received’t be skeptical of your use of context, you received’t know when to show to the dictionary, or that morphological evaluation could be a good suggestion.

Word consciousness additionally contains recognizing when it’s okay to not fear a couple of phrase that means. Often, I can achieve perceive what I want from a textual content, with out understanding the that means of each phrase. Recognizing after I can safely (and ignorantly) proceed, and after I’d higher do a bit extra work, is an essential distinction that good readers make.

This facet of vocabulary data additionally governs what I do after I don’t know all of the phrases and don’t have any instruments to unravel them. Sometimes readers simply must energy by way of, making sense of as a lot of a textual content as attainable, accepting that they aren’t getting all of it since they don’t know all of the phrases. Sometimes 50% understanding simply needs to be higher than 0%. Too many readers encounter a pair of unknown phrases and name it day. Vocabulary consciousness contains the event of studying stamina in low vocabulary data conditions 

All six work collectively

Of course, this appears like six discrete areas of studying, however there’s nothing discrete about them. Those phrases which can be taught explicitly may be the supply for morphological examine. Words the scholars struggled to determine from context might be added to the memorization record and any phrases that college students know may change into the main target of classes on diction. Any of these might be confronted in studying, writing, or oral language instruction, too, and easily encouraging an curiosity in phrases belongs right here, too.  

What could be the perfect vocabulary curriculum? One that will increase the numbers of precious phrases that college students know, that will increase their means to outline phrases from morphology and context, that fosters an consciousness of that means and diction, that enhances the power to make use of acceptable reference instruments, and that encourages metalinguistic consciousness and sensitivity when coping with phrase meanings.    

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