Two Approaches to Vocabulary Instruction: The Teaching of Individual Word Meanings and Practice in Deriving Word Meaning from Context

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Reading Research Quarterly



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In this experiment, the researchers used two approaches to vocabulary instruction with 135 fifth-grade students in U. S. classrooms in order to explore the effects of each approach. One strategy emphasized direct teaching of the individual meanings for a set of unfamiliar words. The second strategy emphasized teaching students to derive word meaning from sentence context, rather than teaching specific meanings. Each strategy was implemented with low, medium, and high amounts of practice, allowing comparison across levels of implementation as well as between treatments. Results from posttests assessing both students' mastery of the specific word meanings taught and their ability to derive meanings from unknown words showed, first, that instruction in individual meanings effectively taught specific word meanings, whereas the training in deriving meaning improved students' ability to derive word meanings. Second, more practice on individual meanings led to higher levels of mastery of the particular words taught. Third, instruction in deriving meaning was effective with medium and high amounts of practice, but not with less practice. The authors compare the two approaches to previous studies of economical ("lean") and more time-consuming ("rich") forms of vocabulary instruction, and suggest the potential of these two approaches for increasing children's vocabulary learning in the classroom.

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