3,000 Words a Year

“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” —Nathaniel Hawthorne

Yes, three thousand! That is how many words a student needs to learn every year to keep up. Yet, according to research, students do not receive enough instruction in vocabulary. Vocabulary is instrumental in kids’ comprehension of text, reading fluency, and achievement (Bromley 2007). And, vocabulary knowledge is a top indicator of reading success (Richek 2005).

Let’s do a little test. How good is your comprehension if you cannot read 5% of the words? I have changed only 3 words out of the 60 (5%), of course, they were important words to the story…

“This game is a xwxw zyzy challenge,” Dr.

Lee explained, giving everyone a xwxw zyzy.

“Should we see how far we can abab

them?” Andy wondered aloud.

“No. Your challenge is to xwxw zyzy for as

long as possible. Once your zyzy hits the ground,

you will be disqualified. The last person xwxw zyzying

will win the challenge for their team.”

Could you read it? Did it take you a while to figure out the missing words? Those three words made a huge difference to the ease of reading and comprehending this simple story!

“This game is a hula hoop challenge,” Dr.

Lee explained, giving everyone a hula hoop.

“Should we see how far we can roll

them?” Andy wondered aloud.

“No. Your challenge is to hula hoop for as

long as possible. Once your hoop hits the ground,

you will be disqualified. The last person hula hooping

will win the challenge for their team.”

We need to build students’ vocabularies. We need to work on it every day in every subject area. We need to encourage parents to help their kids learn words through conversation and reading aloud. And we need to encourage students to read as much as possible.

Research has shown that children who read even ten minutes a day outside of school experience substantially higher rates of vocabulary growth between second and fifth grade than children who do little or no reading (Anderson & Nagy 1992, see References).

Percentile Rank Minutes Per Day Words Read Per Year
Books Text Books Text
98 65.0 67.3 4,358,000 4,733,000
90 21.2 33.4 1,823,000 2,357,000
80 14.2 24.6 1,146,000 1,697,000
70 9.6 16.9 622,000 1,168,000
60 6.5 13.1 432,000 722,000
50 4.6 9.2 282,000 601,000
40 3.2 6.2 200,000 421,000
30 1.8 4.3 106,000 251,000
20 0.7 2.4 21,000 134,000
10 0.1 1.0 8,000 51,000
2 0 0 0 8,000

Ann

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