"Give them the gift of words"

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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.”

A carm vocab word for today – Equanimity

Equanimity” means “calmness, especially during stressful situations”. It’s a characteristic of someone who maintains his or her composure. It’s often used to refer to a person’s way of speaking as well as their attitude – for example, “Although his tone was very aggressive, she answered him with equanimity”. Equanimity also refers to stability or steadiness, in a mental or emotional sense.

Example: “His exercises in meditation and prayer helped him view the chaos in his life with perfect equanimity”

Today's vocabulary building word – Affable

An affable person is someone who is sociable and easy to talk to, and also someone who finds it easy to talk to other people. “Affable” means “friendly”, but in a quiet, calm way. Affable people are not necessarily the life of the party or the centers of attention. Instead, they’re the ones who listen as much as they talk. Everybody feels comfortable talking to them, because they’re comfortable talking to anyone. Other adjectives that describe this type of person are “amiable” and “cordial” – that is to say, polite and willing to go along with others, in a spirit of friendship.

Example: “Alex is invited to every outing – she’s so affable, she can get along with anyone”

Today's vocabulary word – Sinecure

Today’s word (which sounds pretty good to me) is “sinecure“. This might be your ultimate goal when using a curriculum vitae to find work – a sinecure is a job where you don’t have any duties or responsibilities, but you still get paid.

Example: “Rather than being a sinecure, this job has me doing something every minute of the day!”

Today's vocabulary building word – Elucidate

 “elucidate” means “to make clear” or “to shed light on.” A synonym of elucidate is “explain.” If you’re a teacher, this is something you’ll be doing quite often.

Example: “His clear explanation helped elucidate the details of the complicated instructions.”

Hiatus – Take a break with today's vocabulary word

Welcome to another day of vocabulary building!

A hiatus is a pause or break in something that is otherwise ongoing. For example, a newspaper editor might write a column each week for publication, but when the editor is away on holiday, the column goes on hiatus – that is, there is a gap in the regularly-scheduled publishing. You could say that both the editor and the column are on vacation. “Hiatus” is both singular and plural, though it’s also correct to say “hiatuses.” However, since the term is most frequently used when talking about one instance in time, you generally won’t be faced with the problem of which form to use.

Example: “The offices are closed while the department is on hiatus.”

Today’s Vocabulary Building Word: Tenure

Tenure” is another word that is often associated with the world of education. This noun has the same roots as the French “tenir,” or “to hold,” and means “holding or possession of a job, status, or position.” Tenure can refer to a specific period of time – for example, “He accomplished a great deal during his tenure as chairman.” In academics, tenure is used to denote an indefinite period of time: a teacher who “gets tenure” has their position guaranteed from then on.

Example: “The organization’s membership list doubled in size during her tenure as president.”