Vocabulary & Learning to Read
 
Building vocabulary is a critical step in learning to read and write.  Building a powerful useful vocabulary is a long term process which starts at the earliest age and is a life long effort. The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates a typical sequence for acquiring reading skills for use by parents for homeschools and enrichment. The reading skills are organized using the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) system. See below for more details.
 
The Reading Skills Pyramid  illustrates a typical sequence for acquiring reading skills for use by parents for homeschools and enrichment. The reading skills are organized using the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) system.

The "What Works?" Report found that the five key areas in learning to read are phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency.

The Significance of Building Vocabulary Words

Building vocabulary words is key to reading, to writing, to verbal expression, and in many ways, vocabulary is key to building analytical and critical thinking. A person's vocabulary skills can be measured in terms of building receptive vocabulary (ie understanding) words and their expressive vocabulary words. People can build their expressive vocabulary in two ways that can get measured: the written vocabulary words or their spoken vocabulary words. Building vocabulary skills improves reading comprehension and reading fluency. Without building a large vocabulary, students cannot read successfully.

Building Vocabulary & Learning Words Starts at Home

Building vocabulary is far more than memorizing words. Ideally, children should be brought up in a rich language environment which is language- and word- conscious. Children take up attitudes and learn from their parents so building vocabulary starts as a family affair. Children are greatly influenced generally by the amount of conversation, by the nature of the conversation (and the vocabulary used), and the "word awareness" of the family.There are a great number of families where vocabulary word games are played with the children as an ongoing game to build vocabulary and "word awareness" skills including phonemic awareness. These games can build vocabulary and phonemic awareness.

Vocabulary Games - The Fun way to Learn Words Starting Early

Two games to mention: The alphabet game. The first level starts as early as age 3 with just reciting the alphabet going back and forth between parent and child (this often is done while driving). Once this "level" of the word game gets too easy, its time to play the game with words and go back forth with: "Apple, Baker, Cat etc". You might play the game twice in succession and in the second round, you must use new words which makes it a tougher vocabulary game. At the next level, we restrict the word to just one type such as foods: "Apple, Banana, Cheese, etc". The next level of this word game might require two syllable animal words. (BTW - we usually do not keep score and stop at V). Another vocabulary / word skill game: Hig Pig (a favorite word game), a question is asked with a definition: the answer has to be two words that rhyme. For instance: "What do you call a canine that has badly over-eaten?" Answer. a "Hog Dog". And a feline? Answer: a "Fat Cat". From there, you can move to Higgy Piggies where the answers are two syllables long. Ex, "What do you call a crab-like creature involved in organized crime?". Write to higpig@time4learning.com for the answer to this vocabulary game.

Techniques for Building Vocabulary Words - Reading & Other Media

The best method for building vocabulary is to be an active reader. But, there are differences between skilled active readers and less skilled passive ones (see reading comprehension) Students should learn to decode vocabulary words thru a vocabulary building techniques such as context clues and word roots. Word roorts means that students should learn to define words by learning the meanings of root words, prefixes and suffixes. Knowing the basics of the Latin and Greek word roots in English is useful and helps students get insight into how the English language vocabulary words derived and are structured. The use of media greatly affects the building of vocabulary. Some television programs use a large and rich vcoabulary, others are mostly explosions. Whereas many contemporary and classcial films (especially the musicals) had great conversations and rich vocabulary, many others are noticable for their poor quality of conversation (the Power Ranger might stand out as having the most limited vocabulary. Whole episodes consist of a dialogue such as "Lets do it" and "Watch out!", not exactly a sound track to build vocabulary. In interactive media, there are games where the entire sound track is explosions, there are interactive systems with rich vocabulary building, such as Time4Learning....

Build Vocabulary Skills - One Section in the Reading Skills Pyramid

The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates that there are many steps to becoming a proficient reader. Generally, the skills can be split into two halves: one half is word decoding which is made up of phonemic awareness, phonics,. The other half is made up of a set of skills that falls into three categories: comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. .
 
 Vocabulary Games    interactive homeschool curriculum   spelling tests
 

 

The Reading Skills Pyramid

Key skills and dependencies

Learning to read is an exciting time for children and their families. While thrilled by their children's emerging literacy skills, many parents are surprised to learn that reading is not automatic and that, regardless of family background, children require support in learning to read. Recent advances in research document some methodologies that work in most cases.

A language-rich environment forms a solid foundation on which skills including decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension are based. Mastery of decoding comprises understanding print concepts, phonemic awareness and phonics and is usually attained by the end of second grade. Some skills, such as vocabulary development, will grow as long as children are challenged by involvement in a rich language environment and by tackling increasingly complicated texts.

Research shows that children who develop phonemic awareness and letter-sound knowledge early on are more likely to be strong, successful readers. Children build these skills by reading aloud, practicing nursery rhymes, and playing letter and word games. Tutoring or structured computer programs can also effectively reinforce these skills.

The Reading Skills Pyramid visually depicts the patterns of concept acquisition that children follow in becoming successful readers up through third grade. We recommend a high level of parent involvement in this process by providing high quality educational materials, establishing a pattern of daily reading, creating a rich language environment, and discussing your child's progress with teachers and following up on their recommendations. While most children follow the same sequence of acquiring literacy skills, they do so at their own pace. All children are different: if you have questions or concerns about your child's progress in reading, contact his or her teacher.

The Reading Skills Pyramid and a range of educational and entertainment issues related to parenting in an electronic age are discussed in a FREE Weekly Newsletter sponsored by Time4Learning..

 
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Note  
This Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates the analysis of skills and grade level targets determined by the U.S. Department of Education. Curriculum differs from state to state and many children will develop faster than these targets These norms represent average levels of reading achievement.

Sources
Learning First Alliance ; U.S. Department of Education; WETA, Washington , D.C.

Armbruster, B.B, Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2002) A Child Becomes a Reader: Proven Ideas for Parents from Research -- Birth to Preschool & Kindergarten through Grade Three. (2001) Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read Washington , DC : National Institute for Literacy.

Burns, M.S., Griffin , P. & Snow, C. E. (eds.). (1999). Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children's Reading Success . Washington , DC : National Academy Press.

National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. Washington , DC : National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Interesting Links for Reading Skills & Issues
SEDL - Online Library of Cutting Edge Reading Research