One of the fundamental building blocks of learning is vocabulary. Having a well-rounded and robust vocabulary plays a critical role in students’ learning, communication skills, language development, and comprehension.
Whenever I plan a new unit, whether it be a literature-based unit or a skills-based unit, I always include vocabulary words to accompany my instruction. When I use Vocabulary.com, I can easily find an existing list that matches my instruction. If such a list doesn’t exist, I can modify a current list to meet my specific instructional needs or build my own list.
Here is a list of five critical reasons for why teachers should intentionally include vocabulary in every unit.
Improves Language Development and Acquisition
When students work on improving their vocabulary regularly, they build a stronger vocabulary base. This strong vocabulary base helps improve literacy rates and help students be more successful academically. It is important to include academic language vocabulary in your units to support students’ language acquisition when you are teaching a skill-based unit. Not only will providing students with academic language vocabulary lists and activities help them learn the material in your skill-based unit, but it will also help them perform better on standardized tests.
One of the best things about Vocabulary.com is that its software is adaptive. When students create their own accounts, the software can assess each students’ vocabulary knowledge and ability level. The variety of question types comes in handy when you teach in an inclusive classroom. I’ve found that many of my English Learners and students with IEPs receive more picture-based vocabulary questions. The visuals that the intuitive software provides my students as they acquire more language development is instrumental in their success.
Some of my favorite vocabulary lists for language development and acquisition are the Academic Vocabulary Toolkit lists.
Improves Reading Comprehension
When students have a stronger vocabulary, or if they become familiar with words found in the assigned reading before they read, students will have a higher reading comprehension rate. Rather than having to rely on context clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words, students will already have that knowledge beforehand. Frequently, I’ve seen students lose interest in their assigned reading because they believe that they can’t understand it. When students encounter a challenging and unfamiliar word early in their text, they are more likely to tune out.
One way that I combat this in my classroom is to make sure that I familiarize my students with essential vocabulary in the text before we read. For example, if I am reading Jason Reynolds’ novel All American Boys with my students, the site has pre-made lists that follow the book in chronological order.
Improves Writing Skills
We’ve heard the adage time and time again. If students want to become better writers, they need to read more. And while that is entirely true, it completely ignores the vocabulary component. When students consistently work to improve their vocabulary, they have a plethora of words in their writing toolkit, making it easier for them to communicate in writing.
Whether you use an instructional approach by assigning academic vocabulary words, or if you choose to focus on strong verbs that students can incorporate into their writing, having an extensive vocabulary base will help students improve their writing.
Vocabulary is the building block of oral and written communication. When students have more words available to them in their toolkits, they are able to more effectively communicate exactly what they want to say or write.
The art of communicating involves many skills: listening, speaking, and basic comprehension. To engage in an academic conversation, students need to work on vocabulary acquisition and mastery consistently. If a student does not understand directions or lessons because of a lack of vocabulary knowledge, they won’t succeed with that task. Being able to understand and comprehend the spoken word is an essential skill all students need. Just as much, students also need to know how to express themselves in writing and oral communication.
Improves Analytical Skills
When reading literature, students who have a solid vocabulary base can move from comprehension to analysis rather quickly. Instead of having to spend time on the first reading decoding words, students are already familiar with the word and its meaning. Therefore, students can move on to analyzing the text and evaluating how and why specific elements are more effective than others right away. If a student does not have the vocabulary needed for analysis, they will spend more time determining what the text says rather than analyzing it.
One way to introduce students to literary analysis is by incorporating vocabulary. Academic-language lists like Reading Literature – Devices and Figures of Speech are a great tool to help students master the skill.
Disclosure: While Vocabulary.com sponsored this blog post, I use and love the platform. I’ve been using the full site in my classroom for three years now, and it has become an integral part of my teaching and curriculum.