Integrated Vocabulary Instruction: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners in Grades K-5

We live in the "Age of Accountability." Part of the professional role of teachers is to make good instructional decisions and to be able to explain to others the foundation for that decision making using evidence from both exemplary practice and research. One area of particular significance to the curriculum is that of vocabulary; the connection between vocabulary and reading comprehension, as well as vocabulary and school performance in all content areas, is one of the most strongly established in educational research (Davis, 1944, 1968; National Reading Panel, 2000). The purpose of this monograph is to provide research-based information and classroom-based ideas to enhance vocabulary instruction. This monograph, aimed at the elementary school level, is designed to address the needs of the wide range of students that are seen in classrooms, classrooms in which an increasing number of students are entering with first languages other than English (U.S. Census, 2001).

The goal of this document is to provide the information that teachers and other colleagues in school need to implement an integrated and comprehensive approach to vocabulary instruction. By integrated, it is meant that vocabulary is a core consideration in all grades across the school and in all content areas across the school day. By comprehensive, it is meant that vocabulary instruction encompasses much more than a list of words to teach at the beginning of the week. Rather, it involves a common philosophy and shared practices, based on a solid understanding of the knowledge base and supported by curricular considerations as well as classroom and school organizational procedures.

To help establish this integrated and comprehensive perspective, this monograph first presents a knowledge base for teachers with regard to the importance of vocabulary instruction, the nature of word learning, and the research base for teaching and developing vocabulary. Next, specific instructional strategies are described for teaching individual words, teaching word learning strategies, and fostering word consciousness which exemplify the integrated, comprehensive, and differentiated perspectives that have been developed. In education as well as life, "context is all" and, therefore, the last section of this monograph will address the critical component of the overall classroom environment as well as the total school environment for word learning.

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