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What Does It Mean to Know a Word?

There are different stages offered in the description of the extent of word knowledge. They are:

Stage 1: N ever saw it before

Stage 2: H eard it, but don’t know what it means

Stage 3: R ecognize it in context as having something to do with ______________.

Stage 4: K now it well*

So, a student who reads could get a list of essential words in any content area and use the initial letters (in large print above) to note how he/she “knows’ the word. This would be a good small group activity, where two or three learners are found discussing the words and their letters behind each word. Only choose words that are essential to understanding the content. Understanding the vocabulary is 70-80 percent of understanding what has been read, especially in non-fiction reading.

*Dale (1965) as noted by Beck, McKeown and Kucan (2002) in Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. Guilford Press: New York.

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