Nelson and Stage (2007) was to assess the effects of contextually-based multiple meaning (i.e., words with multiple meanings) vocabulary instruction on student vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. To this end, groups of 3rd and 5th grade students were provided with the standard language arts instruction in isolation (in other words, non-specific treatment) or with contextually-based multiple meaning vocabulary instruction that was contained in the standard language arts instruction that is provided to all students over a 3-month period (Nelson & Stage, 2007). The results of this study showed that the students who were provided with the contextually-based multiple meaning instructions demonstrated statistically and educationally significant improvements in their vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension overall compared to the group of students who received the non-specific treatment (Nelson & Stage, 2007). The results of this study also showed that the demonstrated improvements were most visible in the reading comprehension scores, and those students who had lower vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehensive achievement levels tended to achieve more significant improvements vs. those students with an average to high achievement level (Nelson & Stage, 2007). In sum, these researchers concluded that, “The results of this study indicate that vocabulary knowledge plays a critical role in people’s lives and future possibilities” (Nelson & Stage, 2007, p. 2).
These findings support the assertion that a robust vocabulary is a defining quality of educated people, and large vocabularies facilitate academic achievement in general and reading comprehension in particular There are two basic ways that vocabulary is learned: indirect and direct vocabulary instruction (Nelson & Stage, 2007). According to Nelson and Stage, “Indirect vocabulary building pertains to learning words primarily through exposure — through conversations with others, being read to, or reading on one’s own” (2007, p. 2). Consequently, the more opportunities that students have to participate in reading vocabulary exercises, the better likely that their reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge will improve; however, there remains a dearth of timely and relevant research concerning indirect learning experiences in vocabulary development (Nelson & Stage, 2007).
A purpose of a systematic review of the literature conduced by Rupley, Logan and Nichols (1999) was to provide the basis for effective instructional design protocols that can be used to develop a balanced approach to teaching vocabulary instruction. In their model, research-based principles are used to guide effective vocabulary instruction and there is a focus on integrating vocabulary instruction into all stages of the reading lesson framework, prior to, during and following reading exercises (Rupley et al., 1999). According to Rupley and his associates, “Vocabulary instruction should encourage students to make associations and accommodations to their experiences and provide them with varied opportunities to practice, apply, and discuss their word knowledge in meaningful contexts” (1999, p. 340). The overarching objective of classroom vocabulary instruction is to provide students with opportunities to improve their current levels of conceptual knowledge as well as their ability to comprehend the material they have read (Rupley et al., 1999). This is an important component of vocabulary instruction because as Rupley et al. point out, “Students cannot comprehend well without some knowledge of the concepts that are represented by the print” (1999, p. 341)
Indeed, absent a rich and large vocabulary, students will not be able to accurately discern and interpret what they have read. As noted by Rupley, Logan, and Nichols (1999),…