Years of research have pointed to the importance of vocabulary to learning, knowledge, and academic achievement. In fact, some educational psychologists have identified vocabulary as the single greatest indicator of overall intelligence.
Stahl, S. (1999) Vocabulary Development. Newton Upper Falls: Brookline Books.
The key reason behind vocabulary’s influence on overall learning is what some literacy experts call the “instrumentalist hypothesis” - very simply, greater word knowledge allows readers to understand more texts. Indeed, a number of studies have proven a direct link between a child’s vocabulary and their reading comprehension.
Anderson, R.C. and Freebody, P. (1981) Vocabulary knowledge. In J.T. Guthrie (Ed.) Comprehension and teaching: Research reviews, pp. 77-117.
Stahl, S. and Fairbanks, M. (1986) The Effects of Vocabulary Instruction: A Model-Based Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research. 56 (1), pp. 72-110.
Despite its importance, vocabulary instruction has often been overlooked in educational models. Experts agree that the two central pillars of literacy learning are phonics and vocabulary, yet many national curricula focus almost exclusively on phonics. Vocabulary has been described as ‘the missing link’ in reading and language instruction; phonics alone has a minimal impact on children’s reading comprehension.
Biemiller, A. (2001) Teaching Vocabulary: Early, Direct, and Sequential. American Educator. 25 (1), pp. 24-28.