A recent study in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness looks at the effects of Rich Vocabulary (RVOC) teaching on primary pupils’ vocabulary and reading comprehension in a multi-cohort randomised trial.
Rich Vocabulary is an approach where children are exposed to frequent and varied encounters with specific vocabulary words incorporated into classroom teaching. The hope is that this carries over into increased reading comprehension.
The study took place over three years in fourth and fifth grade (Years 5 and 6) classrooms in the northwest US and Canada. A total of 1,232 pupils were assigned to treatment (n=627) or control (n=605) classes from 61 classrooms at 24 schools. This study used at least 12 exposures per word per week. Pupils were given vocabulary instruction 30 minutes per day for four days, with a 10-minute quiz on the fifth day using two novels, A Long Way from Chicago and Maniac Magee, over the course of 14 weeks each year. The pupils had seven weekly reading assignments per book, and teachers were provided with all necessary materials to teach related lessons (worksheets, overheads, etc).
Pupils were pretested in the autumn, and post-tested in the spring each year. Preliminary analysis showed that RVOC treatment pupils scored significantly lower at pretest than control students. Authors suggest this was due to the randomisation assignments, and that they controlled for this in their analyses. Results showed that on norm-referenced tests, the RVOC group scored better than controls in tests of targeted vocabulary, but did not improve general vocabulary knowledge or general reading comprehension.
Source: Efficacy of Rich Vocabulary Instruction in Fourth- and Fifth-Grade Classrooms (2015), Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 8(3).