Vocabulary refers to the knowledge of words as well as the meaning of words. Vocabulary knowledge is more than just citing the definition of a word. It requires that the reader use the word appropriately based upon a given context. As demonstrated below, the word light holds many meanings:
- The overhead light was left on in the car.
- The girl wore a light blue dress.
- I felt lightheaded after my workout.
- The mood at the party was light.
- In light of the new information, the jury pronounced the defendant guilty.
- The hiker lifted his light backpack with ease.
- Sam will light a fire in the fireplace this evening.
Vocabulary knowledge is important because readers must be flexible in applying appropriate meaning to the word(s) based upon the context in which it is used. A reader with limited understanding of a word in a passage may not be able to grasp the intended meaning. For example, in Sentence 4 (listed above), a student who understands light to mean only “a source of light such as a lamp” will not appropriately interpret the author’s intent.
Vocabulary instruction is a key element of structured literacy and should be incorporated in reading lessons. For more information check out our post, Why is Teaching Vocabulary Important for Reading?