The University of Western Australia recently sponsored a study called “Making the Links” that underlines the importance of the connection between a good vocabulary and good spelling skills. While the overall goal of the project was to promote literacy, the study found that without a solid basis in vocabulary and spelling, the student’s ability to comprehend and build on the information they read was severely limited. This “basic literacy” should be achieved by students by the time they reach secondary school age, concluded the researchers, but not all students are achieving that goal. This basic skill is more “word-oriented” and requires the teachers and the students together to concentrate on vocabulary building, understanding the roots and origins of words, and accurate spelling. Once these are well integrated into the study routine, it is easier for students to focus on comprehension.
One surprising result of the study, which concluded in 2011, was that teachers quickly realized that the way they teach would need to change in order to support this focus on literacy. Groups of instructors started sharing their techniques, and results from different classrooms were compared. Understandably, one of the more difficult aspects of this system is to incorporate the literacy targets into all of the subjects being taught, because classroom time and resources are often limited. Teachers, researchers, and outside organizations combined their energies into finding the best ways to accomplish this goal.
The effort and time put into adapting teaching styles to incorporate vocabulary improvement, spelling skills, and reading comprehension paid off in the end. Testing showed that the majority of students in the literacy-focused curricula scored higher than national averages in all three areas, with an amazing 76% of students scoring at least 13 percentage points higher than average in vocabulary skills.
This and other studies emphasize the importance of a good vocabulary in student success in all areas of study. Without a good vocabulary, and the ability to recognize and correctly spell words, it’s very difficult for children to get the skills they need in reading comprehension, which is necessary for acquiring knowledge in any field.
Cross-posted at the Ultimate Spelling blog.