What sorts of reading are required to produce vocabulary escalation? Reading text that is full of unfamiliar words is likely to produce large gains in word knowledge. Students learn new words by encountering them in text, through their own reading. Increasing the opportunities for such encounters improves students’ vocabulary knowledge, which, in turn, develops their ability to read more and more complex text. Students need to learn at a rate of 2,000-3,000 words per year; to catch up, they need to exceed this rate.
Can wide reading really be adequate to help students learn so many words? Substantiation indicates that it can. First, there is the evidence of those passionate readers who acquire large vocabularies largely apart from any type of overt instruction in vocabulary. Second, there is a growing body of research showing that, although the odds of learning any particular word from context are small, the cumulative effects of learning from reading can be large.
Increasing their motivation to read is another critical factor in helping students makes the most of broad reading. One powerful motivating factor associated with more reading is a classroom environment that encourages and promotes social interactions related to reading. Exposing students to high-quality oral language is the other factor to increase vocabulary knowledge.
We can encourage wide reading in a number of ways. We can provide lists of books for students to read outside the class, and make time in class for students to discuss what they have read. We can also set aside a time each day for independent reading. And, of course, we can model the value you place on reading as they read, by telling students about the books you are reading.
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