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Literacy Strategies for Students with Disabilities

Language Comprehension: Vocabulary


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Effective instruction is based on scientifically-based research. An overview of the research teaching vocabulary is included in this section.
  • Knowledge of individual word meanings account for as much as 50-60% of the variance in reading comprehension (Stahl & Nagy, 2006).  Scarborough’s rope model indicates strands in addition to vocabulary are important for language comprehension.

     However, after a student has learned to decode, vocabulary knowledge is the most important factor influencing comprehension.  (Moats, 2009a).  

    Vocabulary instruction includes implicit and explicit instruction as well as developing both depth and breadth of word knowledge.  From third grade on, students must learn about 2,000-3,000 new words every year (Stahl and Nagy, 2006).  Directly and explicitly teaching that many words in a year’s time would not be effective. About 10 words per week is a reasonable amount to teach in-depth.  The other words, students will need to learn by implicit means such as listening to new words used in conversation or during read alouds, and reading about a wide variety of topics in varied genres (Biemiller, 2005). 

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This section includes a library of instructional strategies that help students understand and learn new vocabulary.
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Videos show how instructional strategies look in the classroom.  These videos focus on teaching vocabulary.
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This section contains additional resources related to vocabulary growth.
  • Academic Vocabulary for 5th-7th Grade English Language Learners includes strategies and lists of ELAR and Mathematics academic vocabulary taken from the TEKS.
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    This booklet includes a discussion on why developing vocabulary is difficult, components of effective vocabulary instruction and instructional techniques.

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  • Cara Wyly
    Project Manager, Progress in the General Curriculum Network
    (210) 370-5413

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