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Literacy Main Page

Overview of Approaches
to Literacy

  --Oral Language
  --Prerequisite
     Literacy Skills
  --Reading: Word      Recognition
  --Fluency
  --Reading      Comprehension
  --Vocabulary      Development
  --Written Language

Differentiating Literacy Instruction for Culturally, Linguistically and Ability Diverse Students

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Vocabulary Development

Research has consistently found a strong correlation between vocabulary development and reading comprehension (Snow et al., 1998).

Students develop vocabulary by being exposed to a rich language environment and by ample experience with reading. Having students do repeated readings is one way to encourage reading while reinforcing certain words in a student's vocabulary. Repeatedly encountering unfamiliar words in text is not enough, however, for a struggling reader to develop understanding of their meaning. The student will also need explicit vocabulary instruction as well as strategies to use when encountering unfamiliar words.

  • Readers access both oral and print vocabulary when they read. Students with well-developed vocabulary tend to be more fluent readers.
  • If the student has a word in his oral vocabulary, he will be able to understand the written word.
  • If he does not have the word in his oral vocabulary, he needs strategies for determining the meaning of a printed word.
  • Vocabulary instruction should be appropriate to the student's age and academic level. Note that many content textbooks are not written at a level appropriate to the students' age (need ref. for this).

    Teaching Strategies for Vocabulary:

    • When encountering unfamiliar words in text, students can:
      • learn the meanings of prefixes and suffixes and apply them to new words
      • learn how to use contextual clues
      • use a dictionary. When words have more than one definition, the teacher may need to guide students to find the most fitting definition
    • Repeated readings of the same story or encountering the same vocabulary in different stories are both helpful for vocabulary development.
    • For low achievers, teachers can simplify the wording of text to increase comprehension.
    • Many teachers have found computer programs helpful for vocabulary development. Look for programs that are cognitively challenging, and that teach vocabulary in context. Drill-based programs that teach through rote memorization may not be as effective.
    • Teach vocabulary both directly and indirectly, using rich contexts, and engaging students actively with the text (National Reading Panel, 2000).


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