Vocabulary and Writing

76_3861811We are excited to say that we are working on developing our first two apps which will focus on improving vocabulary.  Not just nouns and adjectives, but also verbs.  We’ve known for a long time that improving children’s vocabulary can improve their reading comprehension, but did you know it can also improve written language?

Think about it.  When you write, how much time do you spend finding the right word or phrase so you don’t overuse the same words?  So many of our students spend excessive amounts of time trying to figure out how to convey their thoughts and knowledge using just the right words and combinations of words.

856_4001208Research has shown (Yonek, 2008) that when students are taught vocabulary using the “typical approach”  it is not very effective.  Typical vocabulary instruction has students defining words, using them in sentences, matching the word to the definition and (if students are lucky) stating antonyms and synonyms for the words.  We know robust vocabulary instruction is much more effective (Beck, McKeown, and Kucan, 2013).  Robust vocabulary instruction involves teaching different contexts of the word, using child-friendly definitions and exposing students to the same words multiple times over a period of time.  Students actively participate in activities that provide them opportunities to use, compare, contrast and experience words, including visual and multisensory activities.  In other words, learning a word once/memorizing lists of words and definitions doesn’t help students to “own” the words, whereas teaching words in a variety of contexts over a longer period of time does help vocabulary “stick.”

51A6CaPvaULNot only did Beck, McKeown and Kucan identify improvements in students’ receptive vocabulary knowledge when learned using these methods, they also discovered that students’ writing had actually improved as well.  After using the robust vocabulary method, students incorporated learned words in their daily writing because they had not simply stored the words in short-term memory to be spit out on a vocabulary test, they had absorbed the vocabulary terms AND they were able to use them expressively.