Teaching and Learning Vocabulary: Bringing Research to Practice

Teaching and Learning Vocabulary: Bringing Research to Practice

Teaching and Learning Vocabulary: Bringing Research to Practice

Teaching and Learning Vocabulary: Bringing Research to Practice


Although proficiency in vocabulary has long been recognized as basic to reading proficiency, there has been a paucity of research on vocabulary teaching and learning over the last two decades. Recognizing this, the U. S. Department of Education recently sponsored a Focus on Vocabulary conference that attracted the best-known and most active researchers in the vocabulary field. This book is the outgrowth of that conference. It presents scientific evidence from leading research programs that address persistent issues regarding the role of vocabulary in text comprehension. Part I examines how vocabulary is learned; Part II presents instructional interventions that enhance vocabulary; and Part III looks at which words to choose for vocabulary instruction.

Other key features of this timely new book include:

Broad Coverage. The book addresses the full range of students populating current classrooms--young children, English Language Learners, and young adolescents.

Issues Focus. By focusing on persistent issues from the perspective of critical school populations, this volume provides a rich, scientific foundation for effective vocabulary instruction and policy.

Author Expertise. Few volumes can boast of a more luminous cast of contributing authors (see table of contents).

This book is suitable for anyone (graduate students, in-service reading specialists and curriculum directors, college faculty, and researchers) who deals with vocabulary learning and instruction as a vital component of reading proficiency.


In early 2002, colleagues from the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) asked us to facilitate a series of conferences as part of a national leadership initiative on reading/language mastery within the Regional Educational Laboratory system. At that time, the report of the National Reading Panel had been available for 18 months. Discussion on listservs and at conferences about the phonemic awareness and phonics section of the report had been extensive. For the educational leaders within states and districts at whom the national leadership initiative on reading/language mastery was aimed, we reasoned that it was also critical to focus attention on the other three topics of the report—fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Consequently, over the next 3 years, PREL held forums for educational leaders that focused on fluency (2002), vocabulary (2003), and comprehension (2004).

The core group of chapters in this volume originated from presentations at the forum on vocabulary that was held in Dallas, Texas on October 1-2, 2003. In designing the conference and this volume, we were particularly interested in addressing those areas that the National Reading Panel had identified as requiring investigation. As the report of the National Reading Panel and the content of chapters in this volume illustrate, vocabulary holds a special place among the five literacy components of reading. First, vocabulary is not a developmental skill or one that can be seen as ever fully mastered. The expansion and elaboration of vocabularies—whether speaking, listening, reading, or writing—can be expected to extend across a lifetime. It is difficult, if not impossible, to separate vocabulary from comprehension.

The chapters cluster around three persistent issues in the learning and teaching of vocabulary: (a) how are words learned and taught as a function of word features, content areas, and developmental levels? (b) how do vocabulary interventions differ for different age groups and content areas? and (c) what words should be emphasized in instruction?

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