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Supporting Pedagogy for verbalworkout.com Lesson Plans

Academic words in each book are ranked according to three main criteria: The first two criteria help to leverage natural repetition that assists vocabulary growth, while the third helps improve motivation.

Prior to reading the book, students take a quiz where they see a sample sentence for each targeted word. Students need to select the correct definition for the word, prior to moving to the next word. Help is available.

This assignment increases student awareness of targeted words prior to students encountering the words in the authentic context of the book. At the same time, it helps students comprehend the book without interrupting the flow of the story.

After reading the book, the targeted words are reviewed. The review is identical to the preview except that sample sentences are chosen from the assigned book.

Because the quizzes take only about fifteen minutes and are checked by the computer, they enhance natural vocabulary growth through reading without detracting from other lessons and aspects of literature. However, while limiting required time the homework meets best practices for incidental vocabulary instruction: This approach is supported by this research:
Show representative citations
  1. It is widely agreed that increased vocabulary facilitates reading comprehension and both academic and vocational success.
  2. Graves, Michael F. (2006). The vocabulary book: learning and instruction, (pp. 2-3). New York: Teachers College Press
    National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
    Snow, Catherine E. (2002). Reading for understanding: toward a research and development program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education

  3. After the 4th grade, the vast preponderance of vocabulary is learned incidentally while reading. Indeed a common refrain in education literature is that the single most important thing you can do to improve students' vocabularies is to get them to read more.
  4. Anderson, R.C., & Nagy, W.E. (1992, Winter). The vocabulary conundrum. American Educator, 16(4), 14-18, 44-47.
    Cunningham, A.E., & Stanovich, K.E. (1998, Spring/Summer). What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22 (1/2), 8-15.
    Stahl, S.A. (1998). Four questions about vocabulary. In C.R. Hynd (Ed.), Leaning from text across conceptual domains (pp. 73-94). Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.

  5. Word consciousness (an awareness of and interest in words) is crucial to such vocabulary acquisition.
  6. Graves, Michael F. (2006). The vocabulary book: learning and instruction, (pp. 7-8). New York: Teachers College Press.
    Scott, J.A., & Nagy, W.E. (2004). Developing word consciousness. In J.F. Baumann & E.J. Kame'enui (Eds.), Vocabulary instruction: Research to practice (pp.201-217). New York: Guiford Press.

  7. Incidental vocabulary instruction should be brief. It is best to introduce or briefly review the word prior to encountering it in reading and then to review it in greater depth after encountering it in context.
  8. Beck, I.L., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2008). Creating robust vocabulary: frequently asked questions and extended examples. New York: Guilford Press.
    Graves, Michael F. (2006). The vocabulary book: learning and instruction, (pp. 20-23). New York: Teachers College Press.
    National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

  9. If students are permitted to turn in additional word quizzes for books read independently: Allowing students to select their own books to read enhances motivation, deepens thinking, and improves comprehension.
  10. Snow, Catherine E. (2002). Reading for understanding: toward a research and development program in reading comprehension. (pp.41-42). Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education.
    Guthrie, J.T., & Wigfield, A. (2000). Engagement and motivation in reading. In M.L. Kamil, P.B. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, &r. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research: Volume III (pp.403-422). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Verbalworkout.com provides a rich environment that encourages active exploration of words:
Describe the environment

Below each quizzed word is a motivating description of why it was chosen. For example, is it commonly seen on the SAT, or is the student likely to see it again and again?

Before or after a quiz, students can look at every instance of the word in the book, or can look at the word in sentences selected to exemplify use of the word. Students with specific interests can even use a picklist to search for word use in a subject area of interest. One student may like finding sample usage in Google News while another prefers Sports Illustrated.

For many words, non-linguistic representations are also available. For example, the word concerto, has a link that permits the student to listen to a piano and orchestra play off of each other. The word translucent, provides a link with pictures of translucent objects. Any searches use Google's SafeSearch technology on "strict" to help assure words or images are appropriate.

We provide 1-click links to such sites as vocabulary.com for audio pronunciation, Google's dictionary for synonyms, and Wikipedia when encyclopedic articles are appropriate.