Vocabulary and Literacy Development in PreK-1


Presented By

Dr. Susan B. Neuman

Professor and Chair of Teaching and Learning at New York University

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Children’s vocabulary plays an important role in their lives and their future possibilities. A large and rich vocabulary is strongly related to reading proficiency. There is strong evidence, for example, that vocabulary knowledge influences comprehension and literacy development, and is perhaps the greatest predictor of school achievement.

Nevertheless, a large and comprehensive evidence base indicates that there are profound differences in vocabulary knowledge among learners from different ability and socioeconomic groups, starting as early as toddlerhood through adulthood. A number of studies have shown that kindergarteners from higher income families are likely to know at least twice as many words as those who come from lower-income families.

The purpose of this presentation is to describe a strategy for teaching vocabulary that has been shown through numerous trials (now about 5,000 children) to accelerate, nor merely improve, children’s academic vocabulary, conceptual development and comprehension. The presentation will first start by describing some of the common myths about vocabulary development, which has often led to a lack of attention for this important topic in school instruction. It will then move to a set of instructional principles that should guide teachers’ instruction. Throughout the presentation I will highlight research-based practices that have come from our own studies, as well those of others. Together, the presentation will show that high quality, developmentally appropriate instruction in vocabulary can make an enormous difference in children’s lives both in the short- and in long-term, helping all on the road to becoming good readers and writers.

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