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Why do we need to teach vocabulary?

Throughout this course we want to answer the key question: What is the most effective way to teach vocabulary?

In fact, our key question implies a prior question: Why do we want to teach vocabulary?

Anecdotal evidence from teachers and research over time suggests that we have a growing number of children who are entering school knowing fewer and fewer words. Even more worrying is the fact that the gap between these children and those knowing a greater number of words grows as they move through primary and into secondary schooling¹.

Researchers have explored the correlation between vocabulary size at different ages and later cognitive/social development; vocabulary can be used as a predictor of various aspects of future life chances. For example, Marchman and Fernald² found that the vocabulary size of a child at 25 months was a predictor for the linguistic and cognitive skills at the age of 8. Cunningham and Stanovich³ made the link between the tested oral vocabulary of pupils at the end of their first year in school in the United States and their reading comprehension ten years later.

The effects of a limited vocabulary however, go further than schooling. Law et al⁴ found that children with a limited vocabulary at five years old were 50% more likely to have literacy or mental health issues at the age of 34 and were twice as likely to be unemployed.

The effects of a limited vocabulary are significant, which means that we need to address this challenge and do all we can to close the word gap. Many teachers will be addressing vocabulary as it arises in day to day activities, but in addition there needs to be more consistent, systematic, planned method of improving children’s vocabulary if we are to stand a chance of closing that gap.

Which leads us back to our key question: What is the most effective way to teach vocabulary?

First, let’s meet the team who will be working with you through the four weeks of the course.

  1. Oxford University Press, (2018). Why closing the word gap matters: Oxford Language Report. [Online] [Viewed 22nd January 2019] Available from https://tinyurl.com/y7zfp4l9
  2. Marchman, V. A., & Fernald, A., (2008) Speed of word recognition and vocabulary knowledge in infancy predict cognitive and language outcomes in later childhood. Developmental Science 11(3), 9-16 [Viewed 21st of January 2019]. Available from: doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00671.x
  3. Cunningham, A.E, & Stanovich, K. E., (1997). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later. Developmental Psychology, 33: 934-935
  4. Law, J., Rush, R., Schoon, I, & Parsons, S. (2009) Modeling developmental language difficulties from school entry into adulthood: Literacy, mental health, and employment outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 52 (6): 1401 - 1416

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This article is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Teaching Vocabulary

Babcock Education