Vocabulary Building for Reading Comprehension and How SpellQuiz Can Help

10 May 2017

Vocabulary Building for Reading Comprehension and How SpellQuiz Can Help

We’re lucky to live in an age where literacy – the ability to read and write – is regarded as a basic skill that should be taught to every child.  Historically, literacy skills were for a privileged few members of society, with the general population reliant on word of mouth for all of their information. The ability to communicate using the written word opens our minds to new ideas and ways of life, as well as creating opportunities to share our own ideas with others. Reading and writing skills are possibly the greatest tools we have in order to make the most of our lives and reach our full potential. We are surrounded by resources to help us develop our written communication skills, such as SpellQuiz.com, as well as libraries and all the writing that we see around us on a daily basis.

Despite the modern emphasis on literacy, children and adults the world over do continue to struggle with reading and writing. To fully understand the meaning of a text isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s easy for parents to forget that literacy is not an automatic skill which children will naturally develop by themselves; instead, it’s a highly complicated process which needs support and targeted instruction, both at home and school.  1st grade reading comprehension introduces a whole new world of communication challenges to children, and they will continue to develop these skills reading until adulthood.

The Importance of Vocabulary Building for Reading Comprehension

A student’s vocabulary has an enormous impact on their reading comprehension level. Apparently, if you have never seen a certain word before, you don’t automatically understand what it means and therefore you may not comprehend that particular word’s meaning in the text. That isn’t the whole story, though.

When reading, your brain is using two processes at the same time: word identification and comprehension. The more time and attention that you need to spend on word identification, the less energy your brain has left to try and decipher the meaning of the word and the overall text. Automatic word recognition occurs when a student is already familiar with a piece of vocabulary and can identify it immediately upon seeing it. While decoding systems like phonics play a huge role in the initial stages of reading training, students who rely on these techniques as time goes on, generally fail to achieve the fluency required to be a really successful reader.

There are plenty of studies which shows that automatic word recognition plays a significant role in a student’s ability to comprehend a text they are reading. Even mild word recognition deficiencies can reduce reading speed and take attention away from the text meaning. This can result in confused and frustrated students who may need to re-read the passage to try and comprehend the meaning on a second attempt.

Automatic word identification is directly linked to the size of a student’s vocabulary, and research has shown that the amount of words a student knows is the most accurate way to predict how well they can understand a text.

How SpellQuiz Can Help with Vocabulary Building

The SpellQuiz unique learning system is specifically designed to build a student’s vocabulary at a steady yet achievable pace. Our spelling exercises and quizzes are graded to match existing school requirements for literacy and vocabulary level. For example, a 5th grade reader can work up all the way from the most basic level exercises, building up vocabulary until he or she reaches the level for 5th grade reading comprehension.

At SpellQuiz, we sequence our exercises so that each new sentence carries a new word for the student to learn. Too often, students are given long lists of seemingly random words to memorize, but this is overwhelming for students and ultimately leads to discouragement. Instead, we use a rate of one new word per sentence as this rate of vocabulary acquisition doesn’t overload students, but gives them a manageable chunk of information which can be integrated quickly into their existing vocabulary. Consistency is the key when it comes to learning, and we practice that by introducing vocabulary not in fits and starts, but rather at a steady, regular pace. A 1985 experiment found that students did not fully understand and know words they had seen only 4 times, but they did understand and know words they had seen 12 times. Our graded system exposes students to words many times in different contexts, as they gradually complete the quizzes, ensuring that they assimilate vocabulary in a natural way for complete understanding.

Our reporting system monitors progress and builds up a confirmed vocabulary number for each student. We identify the words your child is struggling with, allowing for extra practice to completely learn those vocabulary items. Once your child is familiar with a word and able to spell it correctly on a consistent basis, it is categorized as a mastered word.’ You and your child can watch the number go up every time you try a new exercise, keeping track of your learning and increasing motivation. Some people like to turn this into a game, competing with students across the world, using our Global Rank tool to see who can achieve the largest mastered vocabulary.

The Importance of Context for Vocabulary Building

One essential tool for vocabulary building is to use context clues. If a sentence has one word unfamiliar to the student, they can often guess the meaning based on the surrounding words. For example, in a sentence such as:

“The boy pedaled his bike faster and faster; he was in such a hurry!”

A reader with no prior knowledge of the word pedaled,’ might guess that it is something to do with how you ride a bike, based on the clues presented by other words in the sentence.

Studies have found that teaching vocabulary items in isolation, rather than in context, doesn’t help them to comprehend a text using those words. In order to fully understand a word, a student has to be exposed to its usage in the context of other words. At SpellQuiz, vocabulary is always presented in the context of a sentence, giving students an understanding of words as they are used naturally in everyday language. Our students gain the skills to think about the vocabulary given and autonomously use context clues in order to discern the meaning of a word.

Reading Comprehension: One Skill Amongst Many

Reading and spelling ability tend to go hand in hand, and in fact every literacy skill is interlinked, so that every area contributes and develops together as a holistic system. Boosting your spelling skills, for example, will have a positive effect on reading fluency and comprehension, and vice versa. Reading comprehension is directly influenced by vocabulary size, and spelling is one of the most useful tools to enhance automatic word recognition for reading fluency and comprehension.


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