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You Are Only As Big As Your Vocabulary

13 Jun

 

vo·cabu·lary (vō kabyə ler′ē)  Noun pl. Vocabularies -·lar′·ies

  1. a list of words and, often, phrases, abbreviations, inflectional forms, etc., usually arranged in alphabetical order and defined or otherwise identified, as in a dictionary or glossary
  2. all the words of a language
    1. all the words used by a particular person, socioeconomic group, profession, etc.

in full active vocabulary

  1. all the words recognized and understood, although not necessarily used, by a particular person

in full passive vocabulary

  1. an interrelated group of nonverbal symbols, signs, gestures, etc. used for communication or expression in a particular art, skill, etc.

My daughter was diagnosed with a speech delay when she was seven. Her speech delay had nothing to do with being able to talk; it had to do with understanding and communicating (receptive/expressive). There are two main forms of vocabulary, receptive and expressive (hearing and speaking). Words that are generally understood when heard or read or seen constitute a person’s receptive or passive vocabulary, also known as listening vocabulary. Expressive vocabulary is generally words whose meanings are understood well enough that a person feels comfortable using them in everyday situations. In most cases, a person’s receptive vocabulary is the larger of the two, which is exactly the case for my daughter. The types of vocabulary also include reading vocabulary, writing vocabulary, and focal vocabulary. My daughter’s weakness was in expressive language. She sometimes had problems retrieving the right words to express what she wanted or needed to say.

“Of the many compelling reasons for providing students with instruction to build vocabulary, none is more important than the contribution of vocabulary knowledge to reading comprehension. Indeed, one of the most enduring findings in reading research is the extent to which students’ vocabulary knowledge relates to their reading comprehension (e.g., Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Baumann, Kame‘enui, & Ash, 2003; Becker, 1977; Davis, 1942; Whipple, 1925). Most recently, the National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that comprehension development cannot be understood without a critical examination of the role played by vocabulary knowledge. Given that students’ success in school and beyond depends in great measure upon their ability to read with comprehension, there is an urgency to providing instruction that equips students with the skills and strategies necessary for lifelong vocabulary development.” 2

Can we agree that having a solid vocabulary is paramount to reading success? What is gained from building a stronger vocabulary? For starters, an extensive vocabulary aids expression and communication. Vocabulary size is directly linked to reading comprehension, so if you want better reading comprehension, increase your vocabulary. Another benefit is that linguistic vocabulary is synonymous with thinking vocabulary. Be aware that others just might judge the student or adult learner based on his or her vocabulary. To prevent that, make sure precautions are in place to ensure a good working vocabulary.

What are a few good ways to encourage or motivate students to improve their vocabulary? Playing games is usually at the top of the list. These can be game board games the family plays together or online vocabulary games. Spelling, phonics, and vocabulary will all improve while having fun at the same time.

 

1 Webster’s New World College Dictionary Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland,Ohio.

2  Fran Lehr, M.A., Lehr & Associates, Champaign, Illinois; Jean Osborn, M.Ed., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Dr. Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Visiting Research Professor, University of California – Berkeley

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2 responses to “You Are Only As Big As Your Vocabulary

  1. quaintscribbles

    June 19, 2011 at 8:56 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Kerry! It’s the same with my DD. Her receptive is wonderful, it’s the expressive that causes her soooo much trouble. I must say though, she doesn’t let it get her down. She fully accepts herself the way she is. It is usually me that worries about it! 🙂 I am proud she has such strong sense of her self worth.

     
  2. Kerry

    June 19, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    My son’s receptive vocabulary has always been extraordinary. His expressive vocabulary…not so much. He went to a lot of speech therapy during his early years, and honestly I could never tell that it really helped the deficits he had very much. Even at age 15 he has a lot of expressive difficulties. But on his recent standardized test, he tested 98th percentile and college level 2 for receptive vocabulary! Those are such interesting paradoxes, I think!!

     

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