Four Ways to Improve Vocabulary and Student Lifetime Earning Potential

How many words do you know? If you’re a college educated adult, you likely know more than 16,000. However most people get by with around 7,000 words. That gap of words-- and the corresponding knowledge they’re connected to-- make a wealth of difference.

The size of your vocabulary is correlated with social mobility, lifetime earnings, and even physical attractiveness. For k-12 students, vocabulary acquisition is critical to a lifetime of opportunity. Here are four powerful ways to dramatically improve vocabulary for students.

1. Preview vocabulary words right before reading

Share the top 3-5 vocabulary words that are essential to understanding the text. Keeping the word amount manageable enables deliberate practice. Share the word in a sentence, with a definition, and then ask students to speak using the word. If a student can say the word correctly in a sentence then they will likely understand it in the document. 

2. If student can talk about the word they will be able to write using the word

Studies show speaking precedes writing. The more students can speak using the word, before, after, and during reading, the better they will be able to employ it in the future. 

3. Connect vocabulary to prior knowledge

As you share new words with students, ask these three simple questions to allow  students to connect the word to their prior knowledge:

  •  What are the parts of the words? (Can they break it down to understand the meaning?)
  •  What are synonyms/antonyms? 
  • What does the word remind you of? (Can you tell a story about the word?)

By weaving the word into their ecosystem of knowledge, students will be able build lasting mastery. 

4. Count New Words Read

Tracking the new words students learn fosters delight. Students can do this in simple reading logs or with software like Readlee that count every new word they read. There’s a simple satisfaction and aggregate impact.  It may seem silly, but you'd be surprised by the elation students exhibit when they see all the new words they’ve read.

The Cumulative Effect 

When you learn a new word it's like gaining a super power. It opens a realm of understanding, and also, bit-by-bit, opens vast opportunities for economic mobility. 

The impact of vocabulary on your student’s future finances is real. For example, a study by Dr. Christopher Winship and Sanders Korenman at Harvard University discovered that a gain of one standard deviation on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)-- when accounting for doubling the weight of the vocabulary sections-- raises one’s annual salary by $10,000. Other studies demonstrate the Black-white wage gap nearly disappeared when AFQT scores weighted towards the verbal side are taken into account.

Readlee Can Help

On Readlee students can preview vocabulary, practice speaking new words,read aloud to connect words to prior knowledge and track all the new words they say. Try Readlee for free to help improve academic outcomes and a lifetime of opportunity.



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