Poor readers require explicit vocabulary instruction

This study looked at children, Grades 3­–5, with reading fluency in the normal range but poor reading comprehension, and found that “students who were taught vocabulary outperformed… students who were exposed only to the target words in text,” even if they were exposed to the word several times. Vocabulary teaching strategies included:

  • determine the part of speech (e.g. noun vs. adjective)
  • analyze for morphological clues (e.g. “replacing un with not to figure out unclearmeans not clear”)
  • look for context clues
  • and, if the above three methods were inadequate, look the word up

Their finding—that children with reading difficulties require explicit vocabulary instruction to make progress—has been supported by previous studies as well. They also found that, “more frequent words in English were easier for students to learn than less frequent words.”

Elleman, A.M., Steacy, L.M., Olinghouse, N.G., Compton, D.L. (2017). Examining Child and Word Characteristics in Vocabulary Learning of Struggling Readers. Scientific Studies of Reading. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/10888438.2016.1265970