An article in “Science Daily” caught my eye recently adding to my ever growing “G.I.” (Grumpiness Index). The headline said, “Vocabulary Instruction Failing U.S. Students, Experts Say.”

As noted:

Vocabulary instruction in the early years is not challenging enough to prepare students for long-term reading comprehension, argues a study led by a Michigan State University education researcher.

“’Vocabulary instruction does not seem to have an important enough role in the curricula given how substantial it is for kids’ long-term academic success’” stated Tanya Wright MSU assistant professor of teacher education (Science Daily:

The remainder of the article in Science Daily stated that low income children may start school with 10,000 fewer words than other students and are then exposed to reading programs that teach as few two vocabulary words per week.

My Grumpiness Index is rising because this is article is right on the money. I see its effects every day with the kids that I evaluate or within school situations with whom I consult. More and more, children are routinely given deadening worksheets that do not enhance their understanding of the language one iota. Yet, we seem to believe in giving children very difficult text material that they can’t handle and frequently test “higher-order thinking skills” repeatedly and wonder why their comprehension is not adequate.

From my vantage point from the parade of struggling children seen, there is very little joy of language or literature being conveyed in the work that I preview. This is especially true of the children who have reading disabilities (dyslexia), who effectively have one channel of language cut off or drastically reduced based on their challenges in managing the text.

Approximately 15 years or ago, The National Reading Panel noted vocabulary as one of the five major branches needed for successful readers (see: Within that report, there was much credible research reviewed by the panel emphasizing the need for good vocabulary instruction. However, in the very short term view of what constitutes “evidence-based instruction” the NRP report is in the “way back machine,” largely forgotten and very rarely cited (even though the work was not done all that long ago). All of us should go back to the NRP report and revisit the findings on vocbulary instruction.

Read all of Dr Richard Selznicks writings at

2 Responses to “Vocabulary Instruction Failing U.S. Students”

  1. Pingback: “Vocabulary Instruction Failing U.S. Students” | For Special Needs Children

  2. I work in classrooms, and I think something that really bothers me in our schools today is just how much curriculum is shoved down students’ throats…without giving them time to really process and explore the material. While I’m a licensed elementary teacher, I’m currently subbing since I’m not licensed to teach in the state we moved to last year. Something I love about subbing is that I’m given a lot more leeway with my time in most classrooms than normal teachers. Because I’m not tied to the curriculum, I can take time with the kids and have great discussions. One of them will ask about a word in something we read, and we can take half an hour and explore it. We’ll cover everything from history to culture to logic. Do we always hit everything on the “to do” list for the day? No. Do we take time and learn more than the definition of a word? Yes. And the funny thing is, the kids love it! I wish more teachers had these opportunities to explore with kids in ways that touched multiple learning styles, rather than just one.

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