Vocabulary Development

Authored by: Michelle Andersen Francis , Michele L. Simpson

Handbook of College Reading and Study Strategy Research

Print publication date:  July  2008
Online publication date:  August  2008

Print ISBN: 9780805860009
eBook ISBN: 9780203894941
Adobe ISBN: 9781135703738


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At the college level our goal is to increase the breadth of our students’ vocabularies (i.e., the number of words for which students have a definition), as well as the depth and precision of their word knowledge. But the goal is much more than improving students’ word knowledge. Recent federal reports (e.g., RAND Reading Study Group, 2002) have indicated that vocabulary knowledge is one of the five essential components of reading. Given that most college students are expected to read content area textbooks packed with concepts and technical vocabulary that they need to understand fully, if they are to learn, the relationship between vocabulary and comprehension becomes even more significant (Harmon, Hedrick, Wood, & Gress, 2005; Rupley, 2005). If too many general or technical words puzzle students, they will read in a halting manner, a behavior that compromises their reading fluency (Joshi, 2005). Moreover, when the processing demands for reading a textbook become elevated because of the vocabulary load, many students will have little, if any, cognitive energy left for thinking about key concepts or monitoring their understanding (Scott & Nagy, 2004).

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