Bodong Chen

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Notes: Ford-Connors - 2015 - Vocabulary Instruction in Fifth Grade and Beyond



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Ford-Connors, E., & Paratore, J. R. (2015). Vocabulary Instruction in Fifth Grade and Beyond: Sources of Word Learning and Productive Contexts for Development. Review of Educational Research, 85(1), 50–91. doi:10.31020034654314540943


This article provides a comprehensive and balanced review of vocabulary instruction focusing on two aspects: (1) sources of word learning, and (2) productive contexts for vocabulary learning. This review is based upon the notion that word learning is complex, multidimensional, and incremental. As for sources of word learning, it reviews (in-)effectiveness of: wide reading, direct instruction, instruction strategies emphasizing context clues, morphological analysis, awareness of polysemy, and word consciousness. The second part focusing on discussion examines different factors in discussion that facilitate vocabulary learning, the teacher’s role, and the importance of teacher orchestration.

This review is especially illuminating, recognizing “a word as a network” and discussion as an important way to contextualize vocabulary learning. In science learning, for instance, it prompt me to challenge the notion that vocabulary as byproduct of science inquiry and think vocabulary growth is scientific learning. Intrigued by the role of discourse in vocabulary learning, I would like to explore the distinction between discussion of words and discussion of scientific concepts (the former one is more explored in this review), and the role of social interactions in collaborative vocabulary learning (e.g., spread of a word in a community). Technological design to support discourse would be another factor of interest.


If young people are to succeed in a world that is dominated by ever-changing digital technologies, and accordingly new literacies, and ever-growing competition in a global economy, they will need to acquire and maintain high levels of literacy skill and analytical ability. (p. 50)

at least part of the solution resides in expanding students’ vocabulary knowledge, known to be essential to reading comprehension (Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Davis, 1968). Students with large vocabularies demonstrate stronger reading comprehension and score higher on standardized achievement tests than their peers with smaller vocabularies (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986). Moreover, vocabulary knowledge is closely linked to students’ long-term academic achievement (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997; National Reading Panel, 2000), and limited vocabulary has been linked to the achievement gap for students of color, English language learners, and students with learning disabilities (Biemiller & Slonim, 2001; Proctor, Carlo, August, & Snow, 2005). (p. 51)

As we searched the literature, we noted increasing evidence of positive influences of classroom discussion on students’ text comprehension and learning (e.g., Murphy, Wilkinson, Soter, Hennessey, & Alexander, 2009; Soter et al., 2008) (p. 51)

Background for the Study (p. 51)

Vocabulary’s Connection to Comprehension (p. 51)

The exact relationship between vocabulary and reading comprehension is not well understood (Harmon, 1998; National Reading Panel, 2000; Pearson, Hiebert, & Kamil, 2007). (p. 51)

The Nature of Word Learning (p. 52)

Word knowledge exists as a rich network of information in which words are connected to mental schema, prior experience, and associations with other words, concepts, and ideas. Knowledge of a word thus extends well beyond its definition to include not only the ability to recognize a word but also to instantly access information about it and to create meaning from spoken or written texts. In fact, word knowledge is “primarily procedural rather than declarative, a matter of ‘knowing how’ rather than ‘knowing that’ … knowing a word means being able to do things with it,” such that “word knowledge is applied knowledge” (Nagy & Scott, 2000, p. 273). (p. 52)

The complexity of what it means to know a word suggests its development as a gradual process that occurs over time and through an accumulation of experiences and exposures to words and related ideas. (p. 52)

Single encounters with words, then, likely are not adequate to provide the depth of meaning, conceptual knowledge, and information about usage that permits full ownership (Graves, 2006). (p. 52)

Dale (1965) represented the multidimensional and incremental nature of word knowledge as four levels or stages of knowing: (a) having no idea of a word’s meaning, (b) having heard it but not knowing its meaning, © recognizing it in context as related to a particular category or idea, and (d) understanding its meaning in a variety of contexts. Paribakht and Wesche (1996) added a fifth stage, suggesting that the ability to accurately use the word in speaking and writing is the ultimate marker of mastery of the word’s meaning. (p. 52)

Vermeer (2001) likened word knowledge to “nodes in a network” (p. 218), linked across numerous dimensions that include both breadth and depth of knowledge, with denser networks indicating greater knowledge of and about a word. (p. 52)

Disparities in children’s vocabulary, evident as early as preschool, persist into students’ later elementary and middle school years, with consequences for learning and success in school (e.g., Biemiller & Slonim, 2001; Hart & Risley, 1995; Proctor et al., 2005). (p. 53)

The work of Beck, McKeown, and their colleagues (Beck, Perfetti, & McKeown, 1982; McKeown, Beck, Omanson, & Perfetti, 1983; McKeown, Beck, Omanson, & Pople, 1985), conducted with younger (fourth-grade) students, helped establish an understanding of instructional conditions that improve vocabulary learning. Through their work, we understand that, at least for younger students, deep vocabulary learning is realized when vocabulary instruction (a) develops both definitional knowledge and understanding of a word’s broad range of semantic connections and related concepts, (b) provides many exposures to target words in multiple contexts (McKeown et al., 1983), and © requires that students justify and explain their reasoning as they make associations among words. (p. 53)

Despite these well-established insights about the qualities of rich instruction that improve vocabulary learning for younger students, this type of instructional approach is not commonplace in middle or secondary school instruction. In fact, teachers often adopt relatively constricted approaches to vocabulary instruction. For instance, in a descriptive study of vocabulary instruction in 23 upper-elementary classrooms, including 308 hours of observation, Scott, Jamieson-Noel, and Asselin (2003) found that teachers spent little time engaging in discussions of word meanings with their students. Instead, the predominant methods of instruction included teachers mentioning words, providing synonyms, and assigning words to look up in the dictionary. In another study, Hedrick, Harmon, and Linerode (2004) surveyed 70 social studies teachers in intermediate and middle school grades; they found that nearly two thirds of the teachers regularly asked students to look up words and definitions as part of a unit of study (p. 53)

Similarly, in a 4-month descriptive study of six classrooms with fifthand sixth-grade students, Watts (1995) observed a predominance of vocabulary instruction focused on dictionary searches and sentence creation based on definitions. (p. 54)

Scott and Nagy postulated that definitions offered little learning support because “the language of definitions is in some sense an extreme version of literate language—even more decontextualized, more terse, and less like oral language than most of the written language to which children have been exposed” (p. 187). (p. 54)

As a result, there is currently limited understanding about the most productive approaches for teaching words to students as they advance into middle school and beyond, and although recent studies have begun to address this gap (e.g., Kucan, 2007; Lesaux, Kieffer, Faller, & Kelley, 2010), effective vocabulary instruction with older students continues to be understudied. (p. 54)

Method (p. 55)

Studies related to direct instruction of words (p. 62)

Studies related to direct instruction of words plus strategies (p. 63)

Studies of discussion-based vocabulary instruction (p. 63)

Harmon, 2000 Understand how teacherfacilitated peer dialogues promote student awareness of word meanings in text and student application of word-learning strategies (p. 63)

Dixon-Krauss (2002) Understand approaches to improving students’ vocabulary learning and conceptual development related to classroom texts during ELA discussions (p. 63)

Snow, Lawrence, and White (2009) Measure effects of students’ participation in vocabulary intervention program on students’ word learning and performance on statewide assessment (p. 64)

Stahl and Vancil (1986) Understand the relative contributions of semantic mapping versus discussion in students’ word learning (p. 64)

Stahl and Clark (1987) Understand relationship of discussion to vocabulary learning (p. 64)

Results (p. 65)

The review is organized within two major strands. The first is sources of word learning. These include (a) wide reading as a pathway to vocabulary knowledge; (b) instruction of word learning strategies, including context clues, morphological analysis, awareness of polysemy, and developing word consciousness; © direct instruction of individual words; and (d) direct instruction plus strategies. The second is the contexts teachers create to support these sources of word learning. This section includes research related to the focus of the discussion (e.g., conceptual vs. skills-based) and to research related to the ways in which teachers orchestrate the discussion. (p. 65)

Sources of Word Learning (p. 65)

Wide Reading as a Pathway to Vocabulary Knowledge (p. 65)

Wide reading provides access to rich language, and it has been shown to have a major impact on students’ vocabulary growth. Through reading, new words are introduced within meaningful contexts and related networks of general knowledge are built. (p. 65)

However, for vocabulary to increase through reading, students must read frequently, in significant quantities, and with texts of sufficient complexity to be exposed to new and sophisticated language (Graves, 2006). (p. 65)

These collective findings suggest that many adolescents do not read in quantities sufficient to have significant impact on their vocabulary growth. (p. 65)

For students who choose to read, a facet of word learning enabled through wide reading is the opportunity to infer meanings of unfamiliar words from the context provided by adjacent text. However, studies that have investigated context as a source for learning new words have found somewhat mixed results regarding its value as a dependable source of word learning. (p. 68)

However, readers’ skill levels strongly influence their abilities to infer word meaning from context. (p. 68)

In sum, despite strong evidence that wide reading contributes to vocabulary development and growth, such outcomes are likely to be realized primarily by (p. 68)

students who engage in frequent reading of texts with complex and interesting vocabulary, who have strong English language proficiency, and who are capable readers. (p. 69)

Instruction of Word Learning Strategies (p. 69)

Studies of instruction targeted at word learning strategies suggest four essential practices: the use of context clues, morphological analysis, understanding the polysemous nature of words, and developing metacognitive awareness of word meanings. (p. 69)

Context clues. (p. 69)

Combined findings from these studies indicate that explicit instruction in context clues helps readers of all ability levels in defining unfamiliar words (Baumann et al., 2002; Fukkink & DeGlopper, 1998; Goerss et al., 1999). However, students may experience similar success when taught to use other word learning strategies (e.g., morphological analysis) or when taught to pair the use of context clues with morphological analysis (Baumann et al., 2002). (p. 70)

Morphological analysis. (p. 70)

Students’ ability to engage in morphological analysis becomes increasingly important as they advance in school and the morphological complexity of words in grade-level texts increases (Nippold & Sun, 2008). (p. 70)

Nagy et al. (2006) analyzed the relationships of students’ morphological awareness, phonological memory, and phonological decoding to reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and decoding of complex words. Using structural equation modeling, data were analyzed for students at three grade levels: 45 (n = 183), 67 (n = 218), and 89 (n = 207). Morphological awareness made “a significant unique contribution at all grade levels” (Nagy et al., 2006, p. 140) to reading comprehension, reading vocabulary, and spelling. (p. 70)

suggesting that skill in applying such strategies in novel situations develops with age and prior classroom experience. (p. 71)

Looking across studies, morphological knowledge aided students in deciphering word meaning, spelling, and comprehension (Nagy et al., 2006), and skill in applying this knowledge increased as students progressed in school (Nippold & Sun, 2008). Morphological analysis provided a valuable tool to help students with and without disabilities unlock word meanings (Harris et al., 2011). When strategies for analysis were taught, students improved both knowledge of words and ability to infer meanings from new words (Baumann et al., 2003). As a whole, these studies also suggest that students can continue to benefit from a focus on morphology, context, and word analysis strategies as they advance in school. (p. 72)

Awareness of polysemy. (p. 72)

Polysemous words are understood to be “those that have more than one related sense” (Crossley, Salsbury, & McNamara, 2010, p. 575), containing a core meaning, as well as several related senses. (p. 72)

providing instruction in polysemous words may improve word learning and text comprehension (Nelson & Stage, 2007). (p. 73)

Developing word consciousness. (p. 73)

According to Stahl and Nagy (2006), word consciousness is a “multi-faceted construct” (p. 140) that incorporates students’ awareness of differences between oral and written language, understandings about the effect that a word’s role in a sentence may have on its meaning (syntactical awareness), knowledge of the effects of word parts on meaning (morphological awareness), and an appreciation of word choice. (p. 73)

results showed that when teachers emphasized comprehension monitoring, developed students’ awareness of the importance of word meaning as a source of text comprehension, and provided explicit instruction in the use of word learning strategies, students’ reading comprehension improved. (p. 74)

Direct Instruction of Individual Words (p. 74)

In addition to instruction of word learning strategies and approaches that build students’ word consciousness, there is widespread agreement that direct instruction of selected, key words improves vocabulary knowledge. (p. 74)

Such instruction may be especially important in disciplinary learning, which typically dominates instruction during later elementary, middle, and secondary school. A meta-analysis by Stahl and Fairbanks (1986) provided convincing evidence that direct instruction of key words has immediate benefit and is tied to improved reading comprehension. (p. 74)

Students’ word knowledge was addressed at three points during the intervention using three measures: Vocabulary Knowledge Scale–Measure of Academic Vocabulary, Vocabulary Levels Test, and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. (p. 75)

Although there is general support for teaching individual words, there are varied approaches to determining words that merit such focused attention. Among the most familiar is Beck et al.’s (2002) identification of Tier Two words, defined as words regularly used and understood by mature language users and whose knowledge supports comprehension and communicative ability across contexts and subject areas. (p. 75)

Others have suggested different criteria for selecting words for focused instruction. Biemiller (2003, p. 331) proposed teaching words that students “commonly encounter, rather than uncommon and complex words.” Nagy, Anderson, Schommer, Scott, and Stallman (1989) and Templeton (1992) recommended systematic instruction of words based on morphological characteristics and relatedness across word families. Hiebert (2005) extended this focus on word roots and families to include words that students might know through association with known words, words possessing derivatives that students frequently encounter, and words with multiple meanings. The National Reading Panel (2000, pp. 4–5) (p. 75)

suggested choosing vocabulary words for instruction that are “derived from content learning materials” and, therefore, conceptually related to the material being taught. Finally, recent attention has been placed on selecting words from the Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000) and providing instruction in those words common to disciplinary literacy and across academic texts (Nagy & Townsend, 2012). (p. 76)

Direct Instruction of Target Words Plus Strategies (p. 76)

Together, these studies demonstrate the effectiveness of multifaceted instruction combining explicit teaching of target words with strategies to promote students’ independence in word recognition and analysis. (p. 76)

Summary of Sources of Word Learning (p. 77)

A robust body of research that stretches over three decades sheds light on the multiple ways that words are learned. The complex nature of word knowledge demands a comprehensive approach to vocabulary instruction that acknowledges and develops the various facets of knowledge that words represent. In addition to reading widely, positive learning outcomes result from teaching students to identify and use context-based clues for determining the meanings of unfamiliar words in text (Fukkink & DeGlopper, 1998). In addition, morphological analysis (e.g., Baumann et al., 2002; Nippold & Sun, 2008) and attention to polysemy (Nelson & Stage, 2007) have proved useful for determining meanings of unfamiliar words. Combining strategies (e.g., morphological and contextual analysis) improves students’ vocabulary knowledge (e.g., Baumann et al., 2003). As well, strategic approaches that focus on students’ metacognition promote self-efficacy for monitoring comprehension and applying word learning strategies in new contexts (Dole et al., 1995; Lubliner & Smetana, 2005). (p. 77)

Studies also affirm the value of direct instruction of target words (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986; Townsend & Collins, 2009). Rich instruction creates variety in the instructional activities and events where target words are situated, which, in turn, offers students repeated opportunities to hear and use words, authentically. Incorporating direct word instruction with strategic instruction strengthens students’ knowledge about words as well as of words (Carlo et al., 2004; Lesaux et al., 2010). Moreover, these comprehensive instructional approaches are likely to address the multifaceted nature of word knowledge with its related networks of conceptual and semantic associations (Beck et al., 2002). (p. 77)

Productive Contexts for Teaching and Learning Vocabulary (p. 77)

A discourse-rich approach to instruction is rooted in the work of Vygotsky (1978), who held that language serves as the principal tool for sharing knowledge and creating common understandings. He emphasized the crucial role of language in the development of students’ thinking, or inner language, to enable critical thinking and analysis and argued that thinking is facilitated and enhanced through interactions with a more knowledgeable other within a social community (Resnick, Levine, & Teasley, 1991). (p. 77)

With this theoretical orientation as a backdrop, classroom discussion offers a language-rich context in which to explore words’ meanings and uses and to tie important vocabulary to texts and content. In this way, discussion serves as a setting for the rich instruction known to support students’ word learning. (p. 77)

we reasoned that an effective discussion about vocabulary, by its very nature, must be situated within a meaningful context. (p. 78)

Discussion as a Context for Vocabulary Instruction (p. 78)

In a study set in three classrooms, Stahl and Vancil (1986) examined semantic mapping with discussion as an instructional approach to increasing sixth-grade students’ (N = 45) knowledge of lesson-related vocabulary. (p. 78)

Students receiving instruction under the first and second conditions (classroom discussion alone or combined with a semantic map) performed better on several posttests of vocabulary learning (p. 78)

Stahl and Clark (1987) investigated students’ acquisition of science vocabulary in four classrooms of fifth graders (N = 69). (p. 78)

Treatment conditions were labeled as Listening, Called-On, and Ignored. (p. 78)

On each day, one group was told they would listen to, but not participate in, the class discussion, while the other two groups believed that they might be called on. During the subsequent, whole-class discussions, however, only students in the Called-On group were asked to participate. Instruction included collaboratively completing semantic maps and discussing target words, followed by silent reading of the text, and then a whole-class discussion of the text with additions to the maps. (p. 78)

For each group of students in the Called-On condition, scores on the immediate posttest of vocabulary learning were higher than those of comparison groups; and students in the Listening and Ignored groups scored higher than comparison students on two of the three passages. (p. 78)

both participation in discussion (i.e., Called-On) and anticipation of participation (i.e., Ignored) led to significantly higher levels of word learning when compared with students in the Listening condition. (p. 79)

Teacher-facilitated student dialogues provided the focus of a small, qualitative study by Harmon (2000) with sixthand seventh-grade students (N = 6) enrolled in developmental reading classes. Data included transcripts of audio-recorded sessions, field notes, researcher observation, and postdiscussion student self-analyses. Students worked in pairs and first read silently, then stopped periodically to discuss unfamiliar words each had identified in his/her reading. As students read and responded, the teacher used a combination of open prompts (e.g., “What gives you that idea?” Harmon, 2000, p. 333) and more specific comments to encourage students to talk about the words within the context of the text. (p. 79)

Combined results indicate that instructional conversations and classroom discussion provide students with opportunities to hear and use target words in appropriate and authentic contexts (Dixon-Krauss, 2002; Snow et al., 2009), and students’ interactions with each other during discussions seem to facilitate word learning and conceptual understanding (Dixon-Krauss, 2002; Harmon, 2000; Stahl & Vancil, 1986). Furthermore, students’ anticipation of participation in discussion seems to positively affect word learning nearly as much as actual participation (Stahl & Clark, 1987). Common across these studies are focal words drawn from the curriculum, such that students’ talk-based explorations of meaning also lead to deepened comprehension of texts and content. Discussion thus offers both a context and a tool for examining the relationships of words to important ideas and holds potential for improving student learning. (p. 80)

The Teacher’s Role in Productive Discussions (p. 80)

We know that discussion has links to learning, and a classroom environment rich in both teacher and student talk has consistently been linked to student achievement at many grade levels and for a diverse range of learners (e.g., Knapp, 1995; Langer, 2001). Increases in amounts of student talk, with corresponding reductions in teacher talk, have also been associated with higher learning outcomes for students (Nystrand et al., 2003). (p. 80)

Discussions deemed most effective are those in which teachers orchestrate open explorations of content that engage students in critically reasoning and engaging with important ideas (Murphy et al., 2009). Overall, across these large or cross-grade level studies, greater student outcomes are associated with teachers who emphasize (p. 80)

rich language, critical thinking, and conceptual understanding; connect content to students’ backgrounds and experience; develop students’ content and strategic knowledge; and emphasize instructional coherence through the links they created among instructional activities and within and across lessons and subject areas. (p. 81)

Teachers’ Orchestration of Discussion (p. 81)

Based on an analysis of instances of teacher and student questioning, extended explanations, task-related verbal exchanges, and “reasoning words” (Soter et al., 2008, p. 373), the results showed that the most productive teacherand student-led discussions were framed by the teacher and included extended student talk, open-ended teacher questions, and high levels of teacher uptake. Longer periods of student explanation, prompted through teachers’ questions, resulted in more student reasoning and critical analysis of content. (p. 81)

Similar findings are evident in an investigation by Nystrand et al. (2003), in which they examined the relationship among the nature of classroom discourse (e.g., types of questions, presence of uptake, student responses), student variables (e.g., characteristics of students, class size, socioeconomic status), and student learning. Based on an analysis of transcripts from audiotaped whole-class discussions in eighthand ninth-grade English and Social Studies classrooms (N = 200 classrooms), researchers found that dialogic discourse, that is, the “unprescripted exchange of ideas among students and the teacher” (Nystrand et al., 2003, p. 185), correlated with improved student learning. In addition, shifts from monologic (i.e., an emphasis on lecture and student recitation) to dialogic patterns were often preceded by teachers’ authentic questions (i.e., those with several possible answers instead of a single, correct answer). Such questions seemed to open the floor to students’ thinking rather than soliciting a recitation of material from lectures or texts. Furthermore, dialogic episodes were characterized by teachers’ uptake of students’ ideas and “high-level evaluation” (Nystrand et al., 2003, p. 146) in which teachers incorporated students’ responses, either through elaboration or a follow-up question. Finally, dialogic discourse included student questions, a characteristic less frequently found in traditional classroom discussion formats. (p. 81)

They found significant correlations between the nature of teachers’ questions and the level of cognitive challenge and engagement of student responses. For example, teachers’ probing questions pressed students for more explanation of their ideas and included “why” questions as well as “what does that tell us about” questions (Wolf et al., 2005, p. 46). Teachers’ productive queries further asked students to explicitly link their ideas to the text or to contributions from their peers. Teachers’ expectations for text-based evidence also increased cognitive challenge as students sought information to support their opinions. (p. 82)

Taken together, these studies present a picture of effective teachers’ talk as diverse, flexible, and consisting of an extensive repertoire and variety of talk (Sharpe, 2008; Soter et al., 2008) that supports constructive, content-related interactions with students throughout lessons. Effective teachers’ talk repertoires represent a range of instructional elicitations and responses that build connections for students and help them integrate new information with what is already known (Nystrand et al., 2003; Wolf et al., 2005). In addition, throughout these investigations of content, teachers routinely embed relevant vocabulary, such that students hear words used authentically and in ways related to important content and are presented with opportunities to use relevant words in their talk (Sharpe, 2008). The talk of effective teachers also scaffolds students’ learning by stimulating exploratory talk and critical reasoning about content and engaging students with each other in instructional explorations (Sharpe, 2008; Soter et al., 2008). (p. 82)

Summary of Productive Contexts for Teaching and Learning Vocabulary (p. 82)

The language-rich interactions that occur when students and the teacher productively discuss content and grapple with ideas have proven effective as tools that strengthen students’ learning (Nystrand et al., 2003; Soter et al., 2008). (p. 83)

In particular, discussion has proven effective as a context for vocabulary development. Discussion promotes students’ knowledge about words and conceptual understanding by creating a productive setting for exploring words and connecting vocabulary to important discipline-specific concepts (Harmon, 2000; Snow et al., 2009; Stahl & Clark, 1987; Stahl & Vancil, 1986). In addition, discussion promotes dialogic interactions through which students not only negotiate meaning but also authentically explore ideas related to important words; this new knowledge then serves as a cognitive resource for students to use in subsequent academic tasks (Dixon-Krauss, 2002; Stahl & Vancil, 1986). (p. 83)

Classroom environments rich in high-quality teacher and student talk promote students’ learning and academic achievement. Such discussions feature authentic, teacher–student dialogic exchanges (Nystrand et al., 2003); they emphasize higher-order thinking and reasoning about content; and they include the development of students’ strategic knowledge (e.g., Langer, 2001). Productive discursive interactions can be facilitated through a range of instructional talk moves with which effective teachers provide scaffolding that engages students productively with content (Dixon-Krauss, 2002; Sharpe, 2008). A broader repertoire of teacher talk moves, including, for example, questioning, elaborating, or speculating, scaffolds students’ participation and offers students models for engaging in academic inquiry (Sharpe, 2008). Variety in teachers’ questioning techniques extends and challenges students’ thinking while encouraging the exploratory talk that supports critical analysis of content (e.g., Nystrand et al., 2003). Moreover, through uptake and revoicing, teachers extend students’ ideas and productively sustain explorations of content (e.g., Wolf et al., 2005). (p. 83)

Discussion (p. 83)

As such, the simplistic view of word learning through dictionary definitions that often predominates in classroom instruction (Blachowicz, Fisher, Ogle, & Watts-Taffe, 2006; Hedrick et al., 2004) is largely ineffective for increasing students’ understanding of words. Rather, deep word knowledge emerges over time through productive interactions with authentic texts, tasks, and talk (Beck et al., 2002; Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2008; Blachowicz & Fisher, 2000; Graves, 2006; Scott, 2005; Stahl & Nagy, 2006). (p. 83)

So what is it that highly expert teachers do to prepare students to acquire vocabulary knowledge through reading? Our review led us to categorize findings within the context of two major teaching actions. The first teaching action relates to the sources of word learning teachers lead their students to understand and access. In addition to wide reading, these sources include ability to use context clues, to understand and use the morphological structure of words, to understand and use the polysemous nature of words, and to become conscious of and interested in words all around them. (p. 84)

The second action teachers take relates to the ways they frame classroom discussions to prompt productive explorations and provide the “rich oral language” necessary to build networks of semantic and associative information about words (McKeown et al., 1983; McKeown et al., 1985; Stahl & Vancil, 1987). Exploring words and their meanings through discussions of classroom texts and content anchors students’ developing vocabulary in meaningful contexts with authentic applications and opportunities to experience words in ways that support learning. These explorations also contribute to the development of word consciousness and raise students’ appreciation for and awareness of the communicative power of language (Graves, 2006). It is predominantly through this rich use of language in the classroom that vocabulary comes to life as students interact productively with words and concepts. (p. 84)

However, productive explorations of words through classroom discussion do not occur by happenstance. Rather, they emerge through a teacher’s deep knowledge and careful orchestration and use of a repertoire of talk moves that prompt their students to think about, talk about, and use vocabulary to develop deeper understanding of important concepts and ideas within the texts they read and the world around them. (p. 84)

research suggests that discussions as contexts for word learning are relatively uncommon (Scott et al., 2003). Moreover, many teachers view themselves as largely inconsequential in the quality of discussions; instead, they attribute productive discourse as resulting more from luck or timing than from a teacher’s knowledge and discursive skill (Adler et al., 20032004). It seems that, at this point, many teachers lack a deep understanding of the teacher’ pivotal role in orchestrating productive classroom talk. (p. 84)

Implications for Future Research (p. 84)

the Common Core State Standards (p. 84)

Going forward, we must focus attention on identifying the types of preservice and in-service education that will help teachers understand the complexity of word knowledge and, in turn, to acquire and learn to flexibly use the repertoire of talk moves that engender productive discussions about words and the important conceptual knowledge that words represent. (p. 85)

Selected References

Adler, M., Rougle, E., Kaiser, E., & Caughlan, S. (20032004). Closing the gap between concept and practice: Toward more dialogic discussion in the language arts classroom. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 47, 312–322. (p. 85)

Anderson, R. C., & Freebody, P. (1981). Vocabulary knowledge. In J. T. Guthrie (Ed.), Comprehension and teaching: Research reviews (pp. 77–117). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. (p. 85)

Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. (1991). Conditions of vocabulary acquisition. In R. Barr, M. L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 2, pp. 789–814). New York, NY: Longman. (p. 85)

Blachowicz, C. L. Z., Fisher, P. J., Ogle, D., & Watts-Taffe, S. (2006). Vocabulary: Questions from the classroom. Reading Research Quarterly, 41, 524–539. doi:10.1598/RRQ.41.4.5 (p. 86)

Dixon-Krauss, L. (2002). Literature as a context for teaching vocabulary. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 45, 310–318. (p. 86)

Dole, J., Sloan, C., & Trathen, W. (1995). Teaching vocabulary within the context of literature. Journal of Reading, 38, 452–460. Retrieved from stable/40017892 (p. 86)

Harmon, J. M. (2000). Creating contexts for supporting word-meaning constructions: Dialogues with struggling middle-school readers. National Reading Conference Yearbook, 49, 331–343. (p. 87)

Hedrick, W. B., Harmon, J. M., & Linerode, P. M. (2004). Teachers’ beliefs and practices of vocabulary instruction with social studies textbooks in grades 4–8. Reading Horizons, 45, 103–125. (p. 87)

Kucan, L. (2007). Insights from teachers who analyzed transcripts of their own classroom discussions. The Reading Teacher, 61, 228–236. doi:10.1598/RT.61.3.3 (p. 87)

Nagy, W. E., Herman, P. A., & Anderson, R. C. (1985). Learning words from context. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 233–253. Retrieved from stable/747758 (p. 88)

Nagy, W. E., & Townsend, D. (2012). Words as tools: Learning academic vocabulary as language acquisition. Reading Research Quarterly, 47, 91–108. doi:10.1002/RRQ.011 (p. 88)

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects, Appendix A. Washington, DC: Authors. Retrieved from Appendix_A.pdf (p. 88)

Nelson, J. R., & Stage, S. A. (2007). Fostering the development of vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension through contextually-based multiple meaning vocabulary instruction. Education and Treatment of Children, 30, 1–22. doi:10.1353/ etc.2007.0003 (p. 88)

Nystrand, M., Wu, L. L., Gamoran, A., Zeiser, S., & Long, D. (2003). Questions in time: Investigating the structure and dynamics of unfolding classroom discourse. Discourse Processes, 35, 135–198. doi:10.1207/S15326950DP3502_3 (p. 89)

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