Harvard Educational Review
  1. Vocabulary Instruction

    Research to Practice

    Edited by James Bauman and Edward Kame'enui

    New York: Guilford Press, 2004. 244 pp. $28.00.

    Full Text:

    Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice is an informative, comprehensive collection that offers theoretical perspectives on vocabulary development and empirically tested vocabulary instructional practices. With strong consensus on the importance of the environmental influence on children’s vocabulary development and its critical role in literacy development, the contributors to this volume (prominent researchers in the field of vocabulary development) attempt to narrow a large gap in vocabulary size between children who are from language-rich environments and those who have poor language and literacy inputs. Despite some disagreements on ways to best narrow the gap (e.g., emphasis on incidental learning through independent reading versus direct instruction), the authors all advocate the promotion of word awareness as an ultimate goal. The resounding theme throughout the book is the need for early intervention in preschool and primary grades and the principles of “wide reading, teaching individual words, teaching word learning strategies, and fostering word consciousness.”

    As the title denotes, Vocabulary Instruction links theories of vocabulary development to effective instructional programs and practices. The authors cogently provide perspectives supporting the need to pay explicit attention to vocabulary in every classroom. Building on a theoretical foundation, they delineate intervention programs and instructional strategies that are research based and field tested. Detailed descriptions of the programs and strategies are provided, such as which words to teach, when to teach, how to teach, and how to sustain ongoing vocabulary instruction, with illustrations and examples to make the information unambiguous and accessible for instructional implementation.
    The first chapters of Vocabulary Instruction involve discussions of direct instruction, with a particular focus on “sophisticated high frequency words,” vocabulary instruction in primary grades through reading aloud, and elaboration on the provision of multiple meanings (e.g., polysemous words).

    Later chapters of this book address the importance of raising students’ awareness of word meanings and word usage. Word consciousness refers to “interest in and awareness of words,” and its multidimensional nature includes morphological awareness (knowledge of word parts), syntactic awareness (knowledge of order of words in a sentence), and metasemantic awareness (knowledge of meanings as in figurative language). Furthermore, word and language play, such as onomastics (the study of names), nicknames, eponyms, toponyms, etc., are introduced as a way to heighten students’ interests in words and language. The final chapter examines ways to use word play to put “fun” back into the vocabulary instruction, which the authors admit can be “grim” at times.

    Overall, this book is a good resource that presents a collection of theoretical concepts, as well as practical vocabulary instruction methods for educators in K–12 classrooms, district offices, and teacher-training courses. Although more specific attention to children with special needs (e.g., English-language learners and students with learning disabilities) would have strengthened the book, it identifies multiple topics and approaches in vocabulary instruction in a reader-friendly way.

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    Book Notes

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    Vocabulary Instruction
    Edited by James Bauman and Edward Kame'enui

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    Against Common Sense
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