"Give them the gift of words"

Today's vocabulary word – Sequester

The verb “sequester” means “to isolate and make separate from outside contact.” When you sequester someone, you are putting them in seclusion, or isolation.

Example: “The doctors suspected that the child had been infected with measles, so they sequestered him in an isolated area, rather than putting him in the common ward with the other patients.

Today’s vocabulary building word – Detrimental

Detrimental” means “causing harm or damage.” Synonyms of “detrimental” are “destructive,” “harmful,” and “unfortunate.”

Example: “Because most of the victims of the 1918 pandemic influenza were adults between 20 and 45 years old, many countries lost a large percentage of their workforce within a short period of time, which proved detrimental to their economies, already damaged by World War I.”

Today's vocabulary building word – Detrimental

Detrimental” means “causing harm or damage.” Synonyms of “detrimental” are “destructive,” “harmful,” and “unfortunate.”

Example: “Because most of the victims of the 1918 pandemic influenza were adults between 20 and 45 years old, many countries lost a large percentage of their workforce within a short period of time, which proved detrimental to their economies, already damaged by World War I.”

Proven Ways to Increase Vocabulary (Part 3 of 6)

It is generally recognized that knowing a definition of a word does not indicate that it is understood. A word must be comprehended within its context (and how it is used) to fully grasp meanings. The ability to develop vocabulary also requires a deeper understanding than just recognizing differences. Words can take on varied meanings when used in diverse ways and associated with different words. It is important to gain an understanding of the context around the word.

According to the Texas Education Agency (2002), words should be understood using both definitions (e.g. synonyms and defining words in the learner’s own language) and the contextual backdrop (e.g. using words in different ways and crafting stories where the word is the main focus). Words are learned because new words can be connected to our existing knowledge (Bromley, 2007). That is, the more we know, the easier it is to understand and build our vocabulary. Our current knowledge acts as a foundation and framework for bouncing new information off and forming understanding.

Approximately 70% off the most commonly used words that we draw upon in our everyday lives possess more than one meaning (Bromley, 2007). The implications of this are potential opportunities for confusion and misunderstanding. We must rely upon our capabilities to understand and learn words within their context to overcome uncertainties connected with the meanings. Understanding a word when you speak or write is referred to as expressive vocabulary. This often requires additional word knowledge to that of receptive vocabulary (i.e. when you listen or read it) (Allen, 2006).

Context clues are hints that are situated around the word. If understood, they can provide the reader with word meanings (Kester-Phillips et al. 2008). Another common way to develop vocabulary by understanding context is the use of a graphic organizer. In this method, the leaner writes down the word, definition, and an example and non-example. The use of graphic organizers to develop vocabulary has been found to be extremely successful (Kester-Phillips et al., 2008).

Taken from Kester-Phillips et al. (2008, p. 65)

Figure 1 - Sample Graph Organizer

In regards to using examples and non-examples as a model of contextual instruction/learning, Stahl and Fairbanks (1986) found that by using definitional instruction alone, students did not increase their comprehension significantly. The use of definitional and contextual teaching/learning did, however, promote understanding. It was also found that using semantic mapping (i.e. associating words with similar words) was another effective way of building vocabulary (Nelson and Stage, 2007)

Vitale and Romance (2008) propose that the best method for teaching vocabulary is not through teaching/learning of the words by themselves but teaching as “semantic word families” (such as using at, an, ap word families). Another method of improving vocabulary as suggested by Griffith and Ruan (2007) is to use story innovation. This strategy involves keeping the structure of a sentence and substituting new words. The outcome is a semantically new sentence that has a completely different meaning.

Vocabulary can be developed via indirect or direct instruction. That is, indirect refers to developing vocabulary predominantly through contact with the word in various settings, such as speaking with other people and/or reading (Nelson and Stage, 2007). Explicit instruction is particularly beneficial for those students who have lower vocabulary skills (Nelson and Stage, 2007). The learner’s awareness of multiple meanings and ability to recognize and use contextual clues is particularly important as not every definition can be taught or learned (Nelson and Stage, 2007).

In a review of the research literature, Apthorp (2006) found that to promote improvements in vocabulary, it was important to obtain definitions and explanations of the meaning of words; numerous exposures to new words; and, analyzing meanings in a variety of contexts. Extended text talk is another activity that develops vocabulary. This involves asking questions and using higher order thinking to solve problems (Apthorp 2006).

An additional method for improving vocabulary is that of semantic mapping and semantic features analysis (Blachowicz et al., 2006). Semantic mapping shows how words are related graphically (e.g. by using synonyms) and feature analysis demonstrates the difference that exists between words in the same category.

Another technique aligned with a graphic organizer and widely recognized to improve vocabulary is that of Concept of Definition Mapping “in which hierarchical, categorical, and semantic information related to a word’s definition are displayed along with examples and non-examples” (see Figure 2) (Blachowicz et al., 2006).

Figure 2 - Building Vocabulary Using a Concept of Definition Map

Figure 2 - Building Vocabulary Using a Concept of Definition Map


References: Please see our reference page for the complete list

Today's vocabulary building word – Virulent

Virulent” means “highly infectious and deadly.” The Ebola virus, which kills over half of the people who catch it, is a virulent disease. Let’s hope that particular illness doesn’t become pandemic.

Example: “The pandemic of 1918 was caused by a particularly virulent strain of influenza, resulting in the deaths of over 20 million people worldwide.”

Today's vocabulary building word – Pandemic

Pandemic” means “widespread” – that is, covering a large geographic area and affecting many people. You’ll usually hear this in relation to an illness. In fact, an epidemic is promoted to “pandemic” status when it spreads beyond the usual range of infection. For example, the so-called ‘bird flu’ is considered an epidemic if it affects many people in one country, but if it spreads across the globe, it will become pandemic.

Example: “With all of the air travel being done these days between continents, medical researchers are afraid that some diseases may become pandemic if people return home after being infected.”

Proven Ways to Increase Your Vocabulary (Part 2 of 6)

In today’s post I’d like to talk about vocabulary and reading. Don’t forget that our Vocabulary Builder Software incorporates all these techniques automatically to help you improve you vocabulary using easy steps. 
Reading is one way a learner can quickly and easily build their vocabulary. As you read, you increase your knowledge in more than one way. Not only will you learn a broader set of words, but your word knowledge will become more in-depth. The same can be true for vocabulary development and reading comprehension. An increased knowledge of words increases reading comprehension (NAEP, 2008).

If our reading comprehension is low, the ability to develop vocabulary whilst reading is also low. Knowledge of word meanings can contribute up to 70-80% of our understanding as we read (Bromley, 2007). As such, the cycle can continually feed into itself and the outcome can result in a constant improvement in vocabulary knowledge. To gain a full comprehension of a word, an individual must be exposed to that word many times and have it used within a diverse range of contexts (Yopp & Yopp, 2007). The literature also suggests that most new vocabulary is learnt via incidental learning, which can include broad reading (Yopp & Yopp, 2007).

Figure 1: Vocabulary as an Important Component of Reading.

The 4 Components of Reading

Taken from California Department of Education (2007)

Yopp and Yopp (2007) propose that vocabulary knowledge is not just important to reading but to academic success as a whole. Vocabulary awareness also has significant variance. That is, individuals can possess rich vocabulary in certain content areas but lack word knowledge in others. Individuals may also exhibit a well developed oral vocabulary, but conceal a less developed non-verbal vocabulary range.

To improve vocabulary when reading, the multisyllabic word can offer assistance. This is because words that have more than one syllable (i.e. 60% of words) can be deconstructed and meanings can be inferred (Bromley, 2007). Some ways to help build vocabulary whilst reading include:

  1. Identifying and comprehending prefixes, suffixes, and roots to make connections between the word part, the word, and the context.
    Construct a library of new words. The collection should consist of index cards with words and variations (such as plural or past tense, meanings, and sentence use) (University of Alabama, 2009).
  2. Taking note of word families (i.e. phonograms) where a letter or grouping of letters characterizes a sound.
  3. Look at syllable patterns or types.
  4. Keep a vocabulary book to write down newly learned words. Write the dictionary definition, then write your own definition in your own words, and, finally, use the word in a sentence.
  5. Examine similarities and differences in word meanings.
  6. Learn new words regularly and undertake repetition. Repeated experience of a word has been found to lead to vocabulary development (Blachowicz et al., 2006).
  7. Identify words that signal connections to other words (i.e. signal words); and,
  8. Focus upon words that sound the same but are spelt differently and have different meanings (homophones) (California Department of Education, 2007).
  9. Apart from reading, identifying and understanding how context works in word meanings can assist in developing vocabulary.

References: Please see our reference page for the complete list

Today's word is a lucky discovery!

Imagine that one day you have to walk home by a different route, because they’re doing construction on the main street to mitigate the traffic congestion. You walk by a small restaurant you’ve never seen before, and go in for a look. Inside, you find delicious food, and singing waiters who serenade you with beautiful arias from your favorite operas. If you hadn’t been forced into this different path, you’d never have found this restaurant. That’s “serendipity” – the accidental discovery of something good or beneficial. In fact, serendipity is sometimes called a “happy accident”.

Example:  “She met her future husband through serendipity, when they were seated together at a friend’s wedding party.”

A word that's easy to get along with – Congenial

There won’t be much tension to mitigate when you’re with someone congenial. “Congenial” means “having the same likes and dislikes”. You and your best friend are likely congenial kindred spirits. If you’re in a group of people who enjoy the same thing – for example, an activity like skiing, or singing in a choir – then you’re in congenial company. You can also be in a congenial situation: one where you’re completely in your comfort zone, surrounded by affable people, even if you’re not a part of any particular group.

Example: “Being a music lover, I found myself in congenial company at the opening of the Sydney Opera House’s new season.”

Today's vocab word – Mitigate

If there’s conflict between two people in a group, one thing an amiable person can do is help decrease, or mitigate the tension. “Mitigate” means to reduce or decrease the effect of something negative. Sometimes that negative thing is more tangible, like a migraine:  medication can mitigate the pain of a headache. Sometimes it’s a negative emotion or feeling. Have you ever given someone flowers when they’ve had bad news, because you want to mitigate their sadness?

Example: “Construction workers are often required to wear earplugs to mitigate the noise of the machinery they operate.”