This article is part of the November 2001 themed issue on struggling readers. For more about the contents of this issue, visit the From the Editors feature.

Teaching Vocabulary to Adolescents to Improve Comprehension

Mary E. Curtis
Ann Marie Longo


Abstract

Providing vocabulary instruction is one of the most significant ways in which teachers can improve students’ reading and listening comprehension. It can also be one of the most challenging things for teachers to do well. This article describes a 16-week intervention in which the comprehension of middle and high school students reading below grade level was improved significantly by instruction that developed their vocabularies through listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Guiding principles for the intervention are discussed and sample activities are provided.

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Introduction | Overview of the Intervention | Course Structure | Sample Activities | Assessment Tools | Summary and Conclusions | References



Introduction

The importance of vocabulary to reading achievement -- and more specifically to reading comprehension -- has long been established (see, e.g., Davis, 1944; Thorndike, 1917). Knowledge of word meanings and the ability to access that knowledge efficiently are recognized as important factors in reading and listening comprehension, especially as students progress to middle school and beyond (Chall, 1983).

Although growth in vocabulary knowledge occurs rapidly and almost effortlessly for some children, the rate at which word meanings are acquired can vary greatly. Many children with reading problems have poor vocabularies, and the gap between the vocabulary they need and the one they have widens over time (Biemiller, 1999).

In this article we describe an intervention we developed for adolescents who lack the vocabulary knowledge they need to comprehend materials written at their grade level. The intervention is one of a set of four 16-week courses that make up Reading Is FAME (Curtis & Longo, 1997), a remedial reading curriculum designed for the students and teachers at Girls and Boys Town in Boys Town, Nebraska, USA. On average, students at this residential and educational facility are 15 years old on their arrival, and their length of stay is 18 to 22 months. They are sent to Girls and Boys Town because of factors such as chronic neglect and abuse, illegal and antisocial behaviors, and academic failure.

The theoretical framework for the FAME curriculum is Chall’s (1983) stages of reading development. The first course -- for students reading below the fourth-grade level -- teaches the relationships among the most common letter combinations and sounds. The goal of the second course, which is intended for students reading between fourth- and sixth-grade levels, is to promote fluency in recognizing words and their meanings. The third course (the one we focus on in this article) seeks to build up the vocabulary knowledge of students reading between sixth- and eighth-grade levels. In the fourth course -- for students reading above eighth-grade level -- emphasis is on improving integration of text information via both reading and writing (Curtis & Longo, 1999). Students are placed in a particular course in the sequence based on an initial assessment of their reading achievement.

More than 75 replications of the FAME courses have occurred in various sites throughout the United States. On average, analyses of the standardized reading test scores for students who have participated in the curriculum indicate that they gain nearly a year in reading achievement for each course taken.

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Overview of the Vocabulary Intervention

We incorporated elements into the vocabulary intervention based on what research told us about effective vocabulary instruction. So, in this sense, our intention from the outset was derivative, and at least some of the instructional activities used in the FAME course will be familiar to readers. In another sense, however, two features make our approach different from typical classroom vocabulary instruction. First, even though our goal is to improve students’ reading comprehension, all of the instructional time in our intervention is focused on developing students’ vocabularies. Second, we use a word list as the base for our instruction, introducing each word first in isolation before presenting it in context. The reasoning behind these features of the intervention is described below.

Focusing on vocabulary learning. In our experience, much of the failure of remedial reading instruction results from doing too much rather than too little. In designing the FAME vocabulary intervention, we wanted to focus on the knowledge and skills most needed by our students to advance their understanding.

Weak vocabularies were causing our students’ comprehension to suffer, and difficulties in comprehension were causing their vocabularies to remain weak (Chall, 1983). But, in order to influence their comprehension, our students were going to need at least 10 to 15 encounters with each word’s meaning (Beck, McKeown, & Omanson, 1987). So, we decided to devote all of the instructional time available -- 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 16 weeks -- to direct teaching of vocabulary and its application in context.

Moving from isolation to context. We knew that to be effective, vocabulary learning must occur in context (Sternberg, 1987). In traditional vocabulary instruction, the lesson usually begins with a story or article that students read (the context), and words are selected for further discussion (in isolation). We wanted to design an intervention in which students would be the ones to create the contexts in which they learned word meanings. So, in our course, teachers and students begin with a discussion of a set of words and their meanings (in isolation), after which students complete activities that require them to apply knowledge about the word meanings (the context). The emphasis is always on helping students to make inferences about contexts in which word meanings fit, rather than asking them to make inferences about word meanings from contexts they are given.

Selecting Words for Instruction

Knowledge of word meanings is rarely (if ever) an all or nothing matter, especially for adolescents who have experienced difficulties in learning to read. Because of gaps in background knowledge, these students tend to recall very little from typical instructional experiences designed to acquaint them with grade-appropriate word meanings. And in cases where they are already familiar with a word’s meaning, their knowledge is frequently based on their aural experiences rather than on any encounters they might have had with the word in print.

A framework we have found useful in our thinking about this is Dale’s (1965) “stages of word knowledge.” According to Dale, four stages of comprehension are involved in word knowledge: words whose meanings are known (Stage 4); words whose meanings are recognized in some contexts but not others (Stage 3); words that have been seen or heard, but whose meanings are not known (Stage 2); and finally, words that have never been heard or seen before (Stage 1). A typical unit in our vocabulary intervention consists of 10 words, about half of which we believe students will likely have some familiarity with (Stage 3) and about half of which we think will be new (Stages 1-2). Figure 1 shows a sample 10-word list from the FAME course.

Figure 1
A Word List for a Unit from the Reading Is FAME Vocabulary Intervention (Curtis & Longo, 1997)

astound to fill with surprise or sudden wonder
confine to keep or hold in
elusive hard to describe or understand
extinguish to put out, do away with
longevity a long duration of life
persistent refusing to give up or let go
remote far off in place or time
spectacular making a very unusual or impressive sight or display
taunt to insult or ridicule, mock
vital having to do with or necessary for life

In the case of some of the Stage 1 and 2 words, we expect that students will start out with some relevant conceptual knowledge (for example, for the word taunt); for others, we know that such knowledge might be lacking (e.g., for elusive). For Stage 3 words, students’ prior knowledge will be connected to particular situations (e.g., fire extinguisher or remote control), and might be intertwined with similar words (e.g., persistent versus insistent).

In choosing words for inclusion in the FAME vocabulary intervention, we applied two additional criteria. First, since our students were adolescents comprehending about 2 to 3 years below their grade level in school, we looked for words found in reading materials at the sixth- to eighth-grade levels. Second, we selected words that we thought would be likely to disrupt a student’s comprehension if their meanings were not known. Two sources we used in assembling our lists were The Educator’s Word Frequency Guide (Zeno, Ivens, Millard, & Duvvuri, 1995) and The Living Word Vocabulary (Dale & O’Rourke, 1981).

One condition that we did not use for word selection was semantic category. Research shows that grouping words thematically is not necessary if vocabulary instruction is varied and rich (see Stahl, 1999, for a summary of this work). Since we wanted our students to create their own connections among words, we felt that they might be hindered in that process if we used words whose relationships were already built in.

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Course Structure and Activities

Five principles guide teachers’ and students’ movement through each week of the intervention:

We explain each of these principles in further detail in what follows, and provide illustrations of each from one of the units in the curriculum.

Introduce and activate word meanings. The initial goal for every vocabulary unit is the same: to promote word knowledge and skills with explicit instruction. Each word and its meaning are introduced, followed by a discussion of the contexts in which the word and meaning could be applied. So, for example, in the case of persistent, the teacher might say,

A persistent person is someone who hangs in there despite difficulties. We often hear or read about people like this -- people who overcame a bunch of obstacles to succeed. Like an athlete who was persistent even though he or she had injuries -- they refused to give up. Can anyone think of someone they know or have heard about who was persistent, who refused to give up?

We had at least one word in an earlier unit that is related to persistence -- can anybody think of one? The one I thought of was endurance. What connections do you see between endurance and persistence?

Could persistence ever be a negative thing? Can anybody think of a situation when someone’s refusal to give up or let go might be harmful?

Notice that when introducing the word the teacher always directs the focus to helping students come up with contexts in which the word meaning can be applied. As emphasized earlier, this approach is used instead of one which asks students to infer something about the meaning of the word from contexts the teacher supplies.

Once the words and meanings for the week are introduced and discussed, students begin to make further connections between the new information and their prior knowledge. This is accomplished through an exercise called the completion activity, in which students work individually or in small groups to complete sentences related to the new words’ meanings. Subsequent discussion of answers to the completion activity provide students with an opportunity to listen to and learn from one another. It also gives teachers a chance to further clarify word meanings. The completion activity also establishes an understanding -- from the outset -- that vocabulary learning is much less about coming up with a single “correct” answer than it is about making connections to what is already known.

Present words in a variety of contexts. Since we begin with a set of isolated words, we know that we need to provide students with opportunities to use them in a variety of contexts and to receive feedback about their success in doing so. One of the ways in which we accomplish this is via cloze, or fill-in-the-blank, sentences. Students are instructed to use each word only once in this activity, which initially presents them with much difficulty. This is especially true when more than one word could fit into a sentence frame. Through teacher modeling and small-group discussion, however, students quickly figure out the best ways to fill in the blanks. The cloze format also provides teachers and students with an opportunity to discuss inflectional endings (e.g., -ed, -er, -s).

In addition to the sentence cloze task, each unit includes a paragraph cloze activity, which we have found most teens with reading difficulties view as even more of a challenge than the sentence task. Their difficulty in recognizing clues about meaning in a text accounts for why their efforts to use context to figure out the meanings of unknown words has so little payoff. In working on the paragraph fill-ins, teachers show students how to complete the activity in stages, and model for them the kinds of decisions that skilled readers make as they process text. For example, to introduce the task, teachers first read the whole paragraph, showing students how to get an overall sense of the topic. Then, using a think-aloud procedure, teachers work through the blanks, drawing attention to the context clues that help narrow the possible choices. At this stage, for example, a teacher might comment, “Looking at the first sentence, it seems to me that winds could be either spectacular or persistent. In this sentence, though, it describes the winds as refusing to let up, so this tips me off that persistent would probably be the better choice.” Teachers also show how to skip blanks that are difficult to fill the first time through, cross out words as they are used, and pencil in possibilities when they aren’t sure which choice is best.

Over the next few weeks in the course, the whole class works through the paragraph fill-in exercise together, with the teacher acting as a scribe and monitor (e.g., “Is that the only word that fits?” “How do we know that’s a good choice?”). Students then work in small groups or pairs, following the same process. Finally, students complete the activity on their own, and class time is spent discussing and defending choices.

Students also experience their vocabulary words in a variety of contexts via a read-and-respond activity. As part of each unit, students read several short, informational articles written about topics of general interest. Although occasionally the articles include one or more of the course vocabulary words, this is not a factor we use in their selection. Instead, we pick articles we feel lend themselves to application of the words, meanings, and concepts that the students are learning. To facilitate application, we write a set of questions that incorporate the vocabulary words and provide these to accompany each article.

Before students read the text, teachers choose which question or questions they want students to answer, and whether answers will be given orally or in writing. Teachers also preview with students any information they might already know or need to know about the topic of the article (e.g., “What do pyramids look like?”) and any key words (e.g., pharaoh, graduated).

Still another way teachers provide students with different contexts in which to think about their vocabulary words is through a read-aloud activity. Reading aloud is done frequently with young children; however, older students’ vocabularies have also been shown to benefit from listening (Stahl, 1999). Each of our units contains two stories that can be read aloud by the students or by teachers. As in the case of the read-and-respond activity, a question accompanying each story helps focus students’ attention during reading and enhances their understanding of how the story relates to their vocabulary words. For example, for a read-aloud of “Jason and the Golden Fleece” (Russell, 1989), the teacher might say, “As you listen to the third and final portion of the story, think about what part of this whole saga most astounds you.”

Provide multiple opportunities to learn and to expand on meanings. Virtually every discussion of effective vocabulary instruction emphasizes the importance of providing students with multiple, meaningful encounters with word meanings (see, e.g., Allen, 1999; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001). We have found two activities especially beneficial in providing these kinds of encounters.

We modeled the Yes/No/Why activity after one designed by Beck, Perfetti, and McKeown (1982). Questions are constructed by pairing the words in the unit, and students are asked to answer each question as well as to provide a reason for their answer. There are no right or wrong answers, and teachers provide a model for students of how to give support for their answers. By encouraging students to make their thinking explicit, additional relationships among the words and concepts can be discovered and discussed.

The second and by far the most challenging among the word activities is the Analogies task. One reason for this is that the analogies are open ended, with more than one correct answer. Another reason, though, is that many of the students are unfamiliar with the “rules” of analogical reasoning.

Teachers begin with a discussion of the many ways in which words can be related (e.g., synonyms, antonyms, cause-effect, category-example, part-whole, object-use, etc.). Once students are familiar with the different kinds of word relationships, the teacher models the process of identifying the relationships between the first two words in each analogy. Then, he or she leads the class in a discussion of words that would complete the second half of the analogy.

Because we use an open-ended format -- encouraging as many “correct” answers as possible -- the analogy activity is a powerful tool for increasing vocabulary learning.

Promote active and generative processing. Writing is one of the primary ways in which students are encouraged to process word meanings in an active and generative way. Each week, teachers assign at least one topic for students to write about, using at least 5 of the vocabulary words for the unit, along with any words from previous weeks they can incorporate.

In the case of our sample unit, one of the writing assignments asks students to “describe what you would hear, feel, see, and taste if you were sitting on an ocean beach in the middle of the day.” Following are some examples of student responses.

If I was to go to the beach right now I would be astounded. It would be a spectacular day. I would see the ocean shimmer. It would be appealing. When I got there I would move to a remote place and not be near anyone. The waves would be crashing persistently. I would feel the sun burning on my sensitive skin. (Rick)

Quietly sitting on the shimmering sand of a beach, in a remote location, a soft, cool, salty wave taunts my fiery extremities with its breath. The vital air extinguishes the extensive heat of the high sun, which subtly burns the skin on my arm. (Mike)

I would feel astounded sitting on the beach wall watching a spectacular sunset. I would make sure my beach would be on a remote island. If I constantly live on the beach and ate healthy my life would be full of longevity. I would live in a confined home so no one would taunt me. But my dream would be extinguished when the alarm clock would go off. (John)

It would be a very spectacular moment if I could be in the middle of the ocean. The view would be so astounding my heart would stop. The waves splashing persistently and the wind howling voices into my ears. Howling a song so soft and sweet. Telling me to relax and that it is vital for me to relax or my longevity will go down. The wind song told me to go to a remote place to chill out sometimes or I will go crazy. As the wind kept singing the water would splash a light mist on my face that would evaporate instantly. The water soaking into my skin going through my blood stream. Making me feel happy inside. It extinguished the fire inside me and I no longer had the determination to taunt or make fun of anyone. Then the incredible experience would be over and I wouldn’t be able to explain this elusive experience. (Jacob)

Another of the writing assignments for each unit asks students to discuss whether they agree or disagree with a quotation. For this sample unit, the quotation comes from Thomas Edision: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Students responded as follows:

Although this quote seems to make sense, there are many reasons why I disagree with it. Many people might be striving for a goal and they did not want to finish it for some reason. Many people have spectacular goals but people just got rid of them like kitchen fires with fire extinguishers. Many goals were diminished because of boredom. People do not want to do it any more or they detract from their goal because of something important like a baby. They might be so astounded by the baby they don’t want to go back to the goal. Other people might regret giving up a goal they have been working on. People have to make decisions that are vital to their happiness. They might have to move to a remote environment to forget about their goals. Other people might throw their goals away because someone likes to taunt them about their dream. Even if you don’t achieve your goal it will always be confined in your head. (Rick)

For someone to become a successful person is a spectacular and elusive thing because no one can foresee his future or know his destiny. Working hard to reach something will never turn against you. I disagree with the statement that says life failures were close to success or triumph. People know when they are close to success. That’s why they persist to reach the vital goal to astound themselves and the world too. (Ari)

In responding to students’ writing, teachers use a two-part evaluation sheet. The first part lists criteria that students are instructed to apply to their writing before submitting their assignment. The second part contains a four-point holistic scoring guide that teachers use to communicate their assessment of how well students have met the criteria.

Although students find it difficult at first to do the writing assignments, most are able to see progress fairly quickly. Linda’s writing is typical of the pattern of growth we observe:

A person who I think is unique is my little sister. Her name is Holly. She has made it through Worthington to 6th grade. She loves to draw and dance. It’s not fair because she is very good at singing. Holly doesn’t like soccer that much but she is still playing. She plays on a rec team. I love my little sister. I know she is going to be pretty when she grows up. My little sister still plays with dolls but she is cute so it’s ok. She is one of the youngest in her class and one of the smallest too. I think she has ADD but she is still in Worthington so I’m proud of her. (Unit 1)

Yes, I believe that “continuous effort is the key to unlocking our potential.” If you are judicious with the decisions you make then you may be able to unlock that potential faster. It might be very hectic to keep on trying and not give up, but it’s all for the best. If you aren’t used to working a lot then you will have to adapt which might take awhile. You will need to resolve on what you like the most so you can work on it more. You will feel very triumphant when you accomplish your resolution. People might just start to envy you later. The more you ponder the more ideas you will get. But don’t make this an obsession because you don’t want it to take over your life. You might even find something mysterious. So be determined and don’t give up. (Unit 7)

This summer and through this year things have happened that have made me more aware of my life. Two of my best friends met their demise this summer in a car accident around the time I was getting my license. I was so devastated by their deaths that it diminished my desire to drive anymore. There have been 5 more gruesome accidents this year that make me sensitive to driving conservatively. Kids need to make sure that they do not exceed the speed limit and always wear their seat belts. There can be traumatic consequences when you don’t obey the driving laws. When I drive I am very careful. I can’t see how my dad is so tranquil when I’m driving. (Unit 12)

In her first writing assignment, when asked to describe a unique person, Linda used simple sentence structure and produced a piece with minimal cohesion. By the midpoint of the course, when asked to agree or disagree with a quote, she used more complex sentences, and she was able to include several of the vocabulary words. She also used more transition words, which improved the coherence of her text, although her overall organization was still weak. Toward the end of the course, in a reflection, she began to show some comfort in using the vocabulary to make the transition from “sentences of thought” to “passages of thought” (Shaughnessy, 1977).

Writing is an invaluable tool for providing students with opportunities to improve their expressive vocabulary. What teachers using our intervention find most challenging about it, though, is the minimal emphasis that our instruction places on writing itself. However, when teachers see that even the most reluctant writers can be motivated if focus remains on vocabulary use, they become more comfortable with using writing without providing explicit writing instruction.

Also helping to ease teachers’ concerns about the need to work on writing is an activity called Improving Sentences. Ten sentences containing incorrect usage of vocabulary words -- patterned after the kinds of errors we had observed students make during vocabulary acquisition -- are part of each unit. Teachers and students examine each of the sentences and discuss ways in which to revise and improve them.

Games are still another way in which teachers provide students with opportunities to use their words in active and generative ways. Board games such as Taboo, Password, Jeopardy, and Scattergories were customized with the course vocabulary words. Teachers design their own games as well, with one of the students’ favorites becoming known as The Conversation Game.

Provide ongoing assessment and communication about progress. From our experience in teaching students with reading and related learning difficulties, we knew the benefits of helping them see their progress on a frequent and regular basis. We therefore incorporated several curriculum-based and standardized test measurements into the course to serve that purpose.

Students take multiple-choice pre- and post-tests for each unit in the vocabulary intervention. For the pretest, teachers explain that the purpose is to establish what students already know and what they need to learn about the meanings of the words in the unit. Students complete the test on their own, without assistance. Pretest scores are then used by the teacher and students to make decisions about the instructional goals and activities for the unit: Low pretest scores indicate the need to focus on instruction designed to increase students’ Stage 3 knowledge of the words; high pretest scores indicate that emphasis should be placed on moving the words from Stage 3 to Stage 4.

In our experience, students’ average scores on the weekly pretest range from 30 to 60 percent correct. When students have low pretest scores (i.e., many words below Stage 3), teachers place particular emphasis on improving their performance on tasks designed to expand knowledge of word meanings (e.g., completion activity, the sentence and paragraph clozes, and read and respond). When students have high pretest scores (i.e., many words at Stage 3 and above), teachers focus on tasks that emphasize word relationships (e.g., Yes/No/Why and analogies) and precision in word use (e.g., writing).

At the end of each unit, students take a multiple-choice post-test that includes as many as five words from past weeks, for review and to facilitate generalization.

Grading in the course is based on students’ achievement in five areas: analysis of word relationships, response to readings, use of vocabulary words in speaking, use of vocabulary words in writing, and recognition of word meanings. A Unit Grade Report is used for the purposes of grading.

Whenever possible, teachers meet individually with students at the end of each unit, making time for the conferences by assigning independent reading or read-alouds. During the conferences, students are told how they are doing in all of the areas that affect their grade, and they are asked to identify the area in which they will seek to improve their performance on the next unit. Of particular importance is helping students understand that their grade on the post-test is only one aspect of their performance in the course. Being able to deal with words in listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all of equal significance in demonstrating vocabulary growth.

Two curriculum-based measures are also administered at the beginning and end of the course. One is a production task in which students write sentences using 15 of the words whose meanings are taught in the course. Students’ responses are scored using a Sentence-Production Scoring Guide that describes how accurately their sentences convey the words’ meanings. This is useful for estimating the extent of students’ Stage 4 knowledge of words. Before the course begins, students typically earn about 40 percent of the total points possible on the sentence-production task. By the end of the course, the mean percentage often rises to 75 percent.

The second curriculum-based measure administered pre- and post-intervention is a recognition task consisting of multiple-choice items designed to assess knowledge of 40 of the course vocabulary words. This is useful for estimating the extent of students’ Stage 3 word knowledge. On average, students score about 60 percent correct on the pretest and 90 percent on the post-test.

In terms of standardized tests, the vocabulary and comprehension subtests from the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test (Karlsen & Gardner, 1995) are administered pre- and post-intervention. Data from 39 replications (with an average of 26 students in each) indicate an average gain in reading achievement of about one grade level for the 16-week course (from 6.2 to 7.1 on the vocabulary subtest and from 5.7 to 6.7 on the comprehension subtest).

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Summary and Conclusions

The instructional activities described in this article would be appropriate for promoting vocabulary learning in any classroom -- whether via the sort of “stand-alone” units we designed, or through instruction integrated into a content area. Success in using the activities depends on following some general guidelines, however. These include introducing and activating word meanings, presenting words in a variety of contexts, providing multiple opportunities to learn words in active and generative ways, and providing ongoing assessment.

One area that should warrant careful consideration when doing intensive vocabulary instruction is word selection. In choosing words, the number needs to be limited to allow for frequent and varied experiences with the words. We have found that a set of ten words at a time works well. Only words that have “high utility” should be selected -- that is, words that students will be likely to encounter again and again after they have been taught. It is also important to choose words that can be applied in many different contexts and content areas (e.g., persistent, vital).

Words selected for instruction do not need to be limited to those that appear in students’ reading materials. As our results demonstrate, all that is required is that word meanings can be related to what students are reading, and that students receive some guidance in their application of those meanings.

Another area for teachers to consider is the kinds of vocabulary assessment to use. The sample instruments described in this article can be administered at regular intervals throughout a school year (weekly, monthly, at the end of a semester), or incorporated into existing forms of assessment. Teachers and students may even want to make these decisions together. This would provide opportunity to discuss the goals of instruction as well as the purposes of a particular assessment. The most valuable kinds of assessment, of course, are those that help both students and teachers. Students benefit from consistent feedback about their progress since it allows them to set goals and to maintain motivation. Teachers benefit from knowing what is working so that class time can be spent on tasks that appropriately challenge students.

Many adolescents with reading difficulties find themselves facing the same dilemma as the students at Girls and Boys Town with whom we worked on this project. Their deficits in vocabulary knowledge cause them comprehension problems, and their comprehension problems prevent them from improving their vocabulary knowledge on their own. Intensive vocabulary instruction can be effective in turning this situation around. What is required, though, is a clear and deliberate focus on facilitating students’ creation of meaningful contexts for the word meanings they are learning, and a frequent and consistent emphasis on helping them make connections to what they already know.

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References

Allen, J. (1999). Words, words, words: Teaching vocabulary in grades 4-12. York, ME: Stenhouse.
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Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Omanson, R.C. (1987). The effects and uses of diverse vocabulary instructional techniques. In M.G. McKeown & M.E. Curtis (Eds.), The nature of vocabulary acquisition (pp. 147-163). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
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Biemiller, A. (1999). Language and reading success. Cambridge, MA: Brookline.
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Chall, J.S. (1983). Stages of reading development. New York: Harcourt Brace.
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Curtis, M.E., & Longo, A.M. (1997). FAME: The Boys Town reading curriculum. Boys Town, NE: Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home.
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Curtis, M.E., & Longo, A.M. (1999). When adolescents can’t read: Methods and materials that work. Cambridge, MA: Brookline.
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Karlsen, B., & Gardner, E.F. (1995). Stanford diagnostic reading test (4th ed.). San Antonio, TX: Harcourt Brace.
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Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D.J., & Pollock, J.E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Sample text available: www.ascd.org/readingroom/books/101010.html
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Russell, W.F. (1989). Classic myths to read aloud. New York: Three Rivers.
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Shaughnessy, M.P. (1977). Errors and expectations: A guide for the teacher of basic writing. New York: Oxford University Press.
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Stahl, S.A. (1999). Vocabulary development. Cambridge, MA: Brookline.
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Sternberg, R.J. (1987). Most vocabulary is learned from context. In M.G. McKeown & M.E. Curtis (Eds.), The nature of vocabulary acquisition (pp. 89-105). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
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Zeno, S.M., Ivens, S.H., Millard, R.T., Duvvuri, R. (1995). The educator’s word frequency guide. Brewster, NY: Touchstone Applied Science Associates.
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About the Authors

Mary E. Curtis is a professor of education and director of the Center for Special Education at Lesley University (24 Mellen Street, Cambridge, MA 02138-2790, USA; e-mail mcurtis@mail.lesley.edu). Ann Marie Longo is an associate professor of education at Goucher College (1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21204, USA; e-mail alongo@goucher.edu). Prior to their current positions, Mary Beth and Ann Marie each served as director of the Boys Town Reading Center.

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Citation: Curtis, M.E., & Longo, A.M. (2001, November). Teaching vocabulary to adolescents to improve comprehension. Reading Online, 5(4). Available: http://www.readingonline.org/articles/art_index.asp?HREF=curtis/index.html




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Posted November 2001
© 2001 International Reading Association, Inc.   ISSN 1096-1232