As a high school senior (a hundred years ago), I was invited to compete for a four-year scholarship at a state university in a nearby community. The competition was judged on the results of a test we were given. The test was 100% vocabulary. Vocabulary has long been the quick and dirty way to assess intelligence, among other things. Vocabulary is a vital component of reading success, but it also has a tremendous impact on social interaction and success, as well as career and economic success.
Teaching vocabulary is one of the most important things that we do every day. Its importance should not be minimized. It has been estimated that in order to be successful, students need to learn 3000 new words per year. Can you imagine trying to teach 3000 vocabulary words in the course of a school year? Most vocabulary is learned indirectly.
Teaching students to learn words on their own is as important, if not more so, than the direct teaching of vocabulary list words that we do each week. First, we must constantly encourage students to do a lot of independent reading from a wide variety of texts. Then we must equip them with word-learning skills such as using dictionaries and other references, understanding word parts, and using context clues.
Showing students that words are fun and interesting can kindle curiosity and interest that will support continued vocabulary growth.