Implementing Intensive Vocabulary Instruction for Students At Risk for Reading Disability

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Abstract

Concerns regarding literacy levels in the United States are long standing. Debates have existed for decades regarding the most effective ways to teach reading, especially the polarizing dilemma of how much to focus on decoding versus code-emphasis and whole language instruction. Fortunately, as a result of concentrated research efforts and analyses of the extant literature on teaching reading, perhaps spurred by these debates, we know more now than we ever have about how to teach basic reading skills. However, there is still much work to be done in order to determine which instructional practices are the most effective ways in which to teach children to read. The need for more research focusing on best instructional practices is exacerbated by the well-documented gap between research. Literacy rates among this nation's students have consistently missed the mark over the years. The 2009 Nation's Report Card shows that 33 percent of students are reading below the basic level of achievement as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Likewise, only 33 percent of our nation's fourth graders are achieving at the proficient (25 percent) or advanced (8 percent) levels on the NAEP. Our purpose in this article is to begin to bridge the research-to-practice gap by translating recent research in beginning reading to help teachers to more easily implement effective practices in their classrooms. In particular, our focus is on effective use of vocabulary instruction. Several researchers have begun to examine the important role of vocabulary in beginning reading and to determine the best ways to teach vocabulary to children at risk for reading failure. We begin with an explanation of the role of vocabulary in beginning reading and describe recent intervention research in this area. We conclude with a detailed description of the interventions we used in our research so that teachers may create their own vocabulary lessons that best meet the needs of their students.

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