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Do Reading and Interactive Vocabulary Instruction Make a Difference? An Empirical Study

Cheryl Boyd Zimmerman
TESOL Quarterly
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring, 1997), pp. 121-140
DOI: 10.2307/3587978
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3587978
Page Count: 20
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Do Reading and Interactive Vocabulary Instruction Make a Difference? An Empirical Study
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Abstract

Many teachers give little or no classroom attention to vocabulary, assuming students will learn words incidentally. Although research demonstrates that vocabulary can be acquired indirectly through reading, the question remains: Does vocabulary instruction make a difference? This article reports on a pilot study of the combined effects of reading and interactive vocabulary instruction for U.S. postsecondary L2 students preparing for university entrance. A 10-week classroom-based study tested the hypothesis that L2 students exposed to a combination of regular periods of reading and interactive vocabulary instruction will show significant increases in their knowledge of the nontechnical terms that are used widely across academic fields. L2 students attending university-preparatory intensive English programs were divided into two groups: one received 3 hours a week of interactive vocabulary instruction plus an assignment to read self-selected materials; the other received the self-selected reading assignment only. The results of this study suggest that interactive vocabulary instruction accompanied by moderate amounts of self-selected and course-related reading led to gains in vocabulary knowledge; students' perceptions of how best to learn words corroborated these results. It is argued that teachers should give consideration to the effects of combining reading and interactive vocabulary instruction.

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