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Vocabulary development strategies are strategies designed to help the reader deal with the rich vocabularies that can be encountered in printed text. They include strategies for inferring word meanings from the contexts they appear in; for looking up words in resources such as dictionaries and thesauruses; for placing words in natural groupings, contrast sets, and families based on their form or meaning; and various other strategies that help the reader deal with unfamiliar vocabulary and remember it for future occasions. The hypothesized development of these skills is presented in Development Table 33.

This class of strategies corresponds to Language Standards 4, 5, and 6 from the Common Core State Standards.

Literature Note - Vocabulary Development

Deveopment Table 33. Hypothesized Development of Vocabulary Skills

(oral to word)
Can understand everyday vocabulary.
Can recognize important relationships among words (antonyms, part/whole, general-specific).
Can guess the general category to which a word belongs (words for animals, words for physical actions, etc.) from the sentences in which a word appears.
Can deploy contrastive strategies in which shades or differences of meaning are illustrated by taking two familiar, concrete words with similar meanings and contrasting them.
Can deploy exploration strategies in which examples are systematically classified as belonging (or not belonging) to the category defined by a word. Can deploy attribute-identification strategies that examine exemplars or prototypes and abstract defining attributes (birds fly, mammals have fur) .
Can use everyday vocabulary.
Can show the ability to use familiar, concrete words in new meanings after exposure to them in meaningful contexts.
Can apply newly-learned words to real-life contexts in ways that demonstrate a grasp of their meaning.
Can produce sentences that use words in characteristic contexts (dogs bark; people eat food).
(word to sentence)
Can understand a wide range of abstract vocabulary words. Can distinguish between literal and figurative meanings of words.
Demonstrates the ability to infer the meaning of novel words from examples and definitions.
Can deploy abstraction strategies in which several examples (or several uses of a word) are grouped under a general description.
Can use common forms of abstract, logical vocabulary.
Shows the ability to learn and use new, abstract meanings of familiar words when they are strongly supported by instruction and reading.
(sentence to text)
Understands a range of academic and topic-specific vocabulary words appropriate for general discourse about a variety of subjects.
Demonstrates the ability to infer the general meaning of a word from sentence contexts and make reasonable guesses about its specific meaning from the way it is used in a passage, using the situation described by the passage to constrain what the word could possibly mean in context.
Can deploy metalinguistic strategies in which discourse about meaning is guided by such concepts as connotation, denotation, and synonym.
Can deploy informal definition strategies in which explanatory phrases are generated that cover the uses of a word or idiom.
Actively uses a wide range of abstract and concrete vocabulary words.
Actively selects words that suit particular styles, intended registers, or tones.
(text to context)
Understands a broad vocabulary that includes a wide range of academic and topic-specific vocabulary, sufficient to support reading of texts at a college-preparatory level.
Demonstrates the ability to infer fine shades of meaning based upon word choices in a text.
Can deploy formal definitional strategies (genus and differentiae) in examples categorized as being in or out of the category defined by the word.
Can deploy reference-based strategies using resources such as a thesaurus and a dictionary to identify related words and analyze which word would best convey a specific meaning.
Actively uses a broad vocabulary that includes a range of academic and topic-specific vocabulary.
Demonstrates the ability to select vocabulary consistently and strategically to achieve particular stylistic effects.
(text and context to discourse)
Strategically develops vocabulary in specific domains by actively exploring source texts and specialized vocabulary reference materials.
Can deploy analytical strategies to identify fine differences in meaning among words, using contextual evidence to provide a nuanced understanding of how closely related terms differ, and drawing out the implications of particular word choices in and across texts.
Actively uses a broad vocabulary that includes a wide range of academic and topic-specific vocabulary, sufficient to support writing of texts at a college-preparatory level.

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