Teachers know that the key component to reading success is an understanding of what is being read. No matter how well students are able to sound out the words to pronounce them, unless there is meaning, all they are doing is making sounds. To illustrate this, pick up a textbook on quantum physics. We may be able to read it, and even get most of the words correct, but are we going to understand it? And if you don’t understand something, how interested would you be in finishing the book? Or even, how would you feel if the instructor announced that there was going to be a quiz on the reading? This is much the way children feel when they do not have the understanding they need when they read. As adults we can laugh off this exercise and go about our business, but children can’t. This is something many of them have to face ever day in school.
Vocabulary assignments are intended to assist children in developing this meaning. With words pulled from the classroom’s textbooks, students are given the tasks of defining the words, putting them into sentences, and maybe even learning how to spell them for the infamous spelling test. This is the way vocabulary has been taught since our grandparents were young. The problem with all of this is that it is boring for the most part, and as soon as the next set of words is assigned, most of the ones that the children were just tested on are forgotten.
With the introduction of the personal computer, schools and teachers have used them to help with children’s learning. Computers are able to hold a child’s attention and most of the programming for learning is not only interactive and educational, but has a certain amount of fun designed into them, even if it is just the fact that they are using technology instead of doing it by paper and pencil. This concept has been adapted into the learning of vocabulary by the Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop.
The Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshops present units similar to those assigned by classroom teachers to cover definition and use of the word in sentences, but also provide extended activities and games that use the words in entertaining ways to help with retention and understanding. At the end of the unit, students demonstrate comprehension by providing answers to vocabulary workshop tests before moving on to the next section.