Reading Comprehension in High School
Reading to Learn or Learning to Read?
Vocabulary Development

Seven Principles of Vocabulary Development

1. Teacher enthusiasm - teachers convey their belief in the effectiveness of learning strategies.

2. Direct instruction - techniques or procedures come from teacher initiative and direction.

3. Integration - new information connects to previous knowledge and experiences.

4. Intensive practice - frequent activities develop facility with words and understanding of how they are used. Give both context and definitions.

5. Repetition - there is frequent exposure to the same words through practice exercises or testing.

6. Learner involvement - the learner locates definitions, applies them to various situations appropriately and practices deep processing.

7. Long-term commitment - vocabulary development is an integral part of the curriculum.

Laflamme (1997

Necessary components in vocabulary instruction:

First, vocabulary instruction should encourage students to discuss, elaborate, and demonstrate meanings of new words, and provide varied opportunities for students to use words outside of their classroom. 

Second, truly "effective vocabulary instruction consists of providing numerous encounters with words and concepts with discussions and opportunities to use these words and concepts across a variety of contexts" (Bryant et. al., 1999, p. 5). The time spent on instruction is highly correlated to the effect of the instruction.

Third, "to understand a word fully, a student must know not only what it refers to, but also where the boundaries are that separate it from words of related meaning" (Gairns & Redman, 1986, p. 13). While words have a range of meanings, each word covers a unique territory, distinct from other similar words. Furthermore, words rarely occur in isolation. To understand a word's meaning the reader must also understand "the way in which the meaning contributes to the cohesiveness of the context" (Rupley, Logan, & Nichols, 1999, p. 2). Thus, a word's separateness from other words, and its togetherness with the context, need to be grasped for comprehension to exist.

Fourth, "purposeful learning in vocabulary development means that pupils perceive reasons for achieving" (Ediger, 1999, p. 2). Educators need to generate interest in the units of study thus creating a desire for learning vocabulary. Students should also be encouraged to find personal use and applications for newly acquired vocabulary outside of school.

Fifth, "the key to successful vocabulary instruction builds upon students background knowledge and makes explicit the connections between new words and what they already know" (Rupley, Logan, & Nichols, 1999, p. 9). As students make connections between new and known words and prior knowledge, effective and long-term learning takes place.

Sixth, "knowing a word in the fullest sense goes beyond simply being able to define it or get some gist of it from the context" (Ibid., p. 3), it requires in-depth learning. In-depth word studies contain many exposures to new words in meaningful contexts, instruction in semantics and word structure, a word's definition, and its relationship to other words and the context (Ediger, 1999; Stahl, 1996). Flood et. al. maintains there are two levels of vocabulary knowledge, receptive and expressive. While "receptive vocabulary requires the reader/listener to associate a specific meaning with a given label, expressive vocabulary requires the speaker/writer to produce a specific label for a particular meaning" (1991, p. 606). In this sense, in-depth learning would produce expressive vocabulary.

Strategies to use when youíre stuck on a word:

Instead of guessing, reread the sentence containing the word you donít know, as well as the sentences that come before and after it.

Try to find clues in those sentences to help you figure out the word.


Look closely at the word.

If the word has a prefix, try to say it, then take it off.

If the word has a suffix, try to say it, then take it off.

Look at the base or root word thatís left. Does it resemble another word you know? For example, the base felon resembles melon.

Try saying the base word, then blend all the word parts together.

Reread the sentence and see if the word makes sense.


Ask a classmate or adult for help.

Look the word up in the dictionary.