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19 Sep 2014

Vocabulary Matters




Presentation slides for the webinar are available here.

In Vocabulary Matters, Freddy covers three points. Click on the headings to view the associated segment of the webinar.

Why is core vocabulary important?

In explaining why core vocabulary is essential to reading more complex text, Freddy first defines the term core vocabulary. In her research, Freddy has found that 2500 complex word families account for 90% of the words in text. These 2500 complex word families are what Freddy calls the core vocabulary. It is proficiency with these 2500 complex word families that will help a reader read more complex text.

Freddy has talked about the rare words, the remaining 10% of words found in most text, in prior presentations. Here are some resources on generative vocabulary.

What are the features of words in core vocabulary?

Research has shown that at about third grade students can recognize lots of words, but they do so very slowly. This lack of fluency hinders their comprehension of the texts, complex or not. Students with proficiency in recognizing and understanding the meaning of core vocabulary words will be able to read more fluently and also concentrate on the ideas within the text.

In this segment, Freddy takes a closer look at the 2500 complex word families that make up the core vocabulary. She finds that the words in core vocabulary fall into four groups. (click on each group to hear Freddy's description of each group)

How do teachers and programs support students' facility with the core vocabulary?

With a set of words that are critical to being able to read procifiently, the instinctive thing to do is to focus on the words and use word lists or flashcards to learn the words in the core vocabulary. But this is NOT what Freddy suggests. The words in the core vocabulary are too multifaceted to learn using word lists and flashcards. Instead, Freddy suggests utilizing these four techniques.

  • For the words that are concrete, that is to say they are picturable, use pictures to quickly convey meaning. (view segment)
  • Teach words of the same idea together by using word maps. Link word maps together so students can learn words in the context of an idea or content area. (view segment)
    • Example: Word maps for content words



  • Teach words of the same morphological family together to show how the meaning of a word can change subtly or drastically as it shifts from a verb to a noun, etc. (view segment)
  • Read, read, read lots of text that include the core vocabulary in supportive manner so that students can gain automaticity in reading the words from the core vocabulary. (view segment)
    • Examples:
      • FYI for Kids: Set of 83 leveled nonfiction texts that consists of 1-5% rare words. The remaining words come from the core vocabulary.
      • Talking Points for Kids: Set of 10 ebooks that are designed to elicit meaningful conversation. Texts consists of 2-3% rare words. The remaining words come from the core vocabulary.

Don't miss the four Q&A from the webinar too!

Presentation slides for the webinar are available here.