Knowledge of Word Meanings Vocabulary
is the foundation of reading for understanding. ELL/CLD students
have their vocabulary knowledge in the process of development
at the same time that they are attempting to learn how to
read or read to learn. Children’s vocabulary may vary
from knowing the meaning of a word in one language, but not
in the other, to knowing the meaning of words only in English
regardless of how limited their English may be.
The distinction between fluency and proficiency in vocabulary
is really important. Students sound fluent with 1,500 words.
However, to be able to read with understanding, students need
to have the vocabulary necessary to fully understand the message. Native
English speakers arrive at school at age six with at least
6,000 words. On the other hand, ELL/CLD students who have become fluent
in English may have only 1,500 words. They may sound equally fluent but
are different in their levels of English vocabulary proficiency.
Educators need to become very strategic in uncovering what
students already know in both languages, to determine the
entry points for instruction. The following classification
has been found very helpful in assessing vocabulary knowledge
in the classroom.
Words that the
student owns with understanding. The meaning of the these words "is already present in
students’ speaking-listening vocabularies.”
An example of a Type 1 word could be table.
The student knows the word and its meaning. This includes
need to use consistently the student's Type 1 words
to teach "learning to read" as a bridge from oral to written language.
Assessment and instruction
of the pre-literate student’s phonemic awareness and phonics
in English with the word that the student
does not already own, may give the impression that the student has problem.
Words with multiple
meanings are those like book, which may be
in the students’ vocabularies but with only one
meaning and are now being used with a
An example of a type 2 word could be book. The student may know book as something one
reads but not know that you may book a flight on an airline.
This includes false friends.
Words which are
not yet in the students’ vocabularies but may
be easily explained (usually with a synonym or a translation).
An example of a Type 3 word is large which
can be explained by the synonym big or with
a translation grande ( in Portuguese).
“the real trouble spots". These are words not
easily explained through existing or related schemata.
Schemata must be ‘built from the ground
An example of type 4 words could be words used in academic content. The word fraction for a student that does know its meaning needs to be taught from the ground up.
Adapted from: Graves’ (1984) By Prof
Maria de Lourdes Serpa (1985, 2000).