Vocabulary Words & Reading Comprehension: Teaching Strategies

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  • 0:01 Importance of Vocabulary
  • 0:45 Context Clues
  • 3:30 Word Parts
  • 5:30 Games
  • 7:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Learning how to decipher unfamiliar words is imperative in any language arts classroom. Watch this video lesson to learn strategies for teaching vocabulary in reading passages.

Importance of Vocabulary

Every English language arts teacher has a curriculum with standards centered on vocabulary. There is a very important reason for this: increased vocabulary increases reading comprehension. If your students don't understand the words, how could they ever understand the content?

Reading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition are both skills. Just like shooting a basketball or hitting a baseball, these skills must be practiced in order to be improved. Obviously, there is no way to teach every single English word to your students. However, if you can teach your students how to figure out unfamiliar words, then they will be able to learn new words on their own while grasping the content of the reading passage at the same time.

Context Clues

Perhaps the most important method of vocabulary acquisition is using context clues. Context clues are the hints within the meaning of the sentence that give away the definition of the unfamiliar word. For example, if a teacher said, 'Your exam was a tamoration. It was the lowest score in the whole class!' Tamoration is not even a real word but based on the context clues, can you figure out what it means? You should be able to tell 'tamoration' means something really terrible, since it warrants the worst score in the class. You can even use this example as a model and have students invent their own made-up words to test their peers' ability to figure out the intended meaning.

Once your students have a general understanding of what context clues are, they can create word maps for unfamiliar vocabulary. Word maps are any visual organization for vocabulary and can come in a wide variety of forms. For instance, your students can create webs showing the different context clues attached to each vocabulary word. These webs can even be connected to other vocabulary words that are related in meaning. If your vocabulary comes from a novel, the students can create word maps connecting different characters, plot events, and settings to various vocabulary terms. Word maps can be webs, charts, tables, flow charts, or any other visual you can imagine. The great thing about word maps is they reach any visual learners you may have in the classroom.

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