The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction

reviewed by Katia CiampaJill Marron & Gwen Quinn — August 10, 2017

coverTitle: The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction
Author(s): Michael F. Graves
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807757268, Pages: 240, Year: 2016
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“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Such is how Michael F. Graves introduces his book, The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction (2nd ed.) which proves essential to understanding the powerful effect of words both inside and beyond the classroom walls. Vocabulary knowledge is an essential aspect of a successful literacy program, so any time devoted to vocabulary instruction is time well-spent. Throughout the book, Graves provides the reader with a succinct summary of findings from vocabulary research over the past 50 years, which provides a consistent portrait of the vocabulary instruction (or lack thereof) that typically takes place in K-12 classrooms. The urgency of the matter of vocabulary instruction coupled with Graves’ affection for the subject was readily apparent throughout the book.

Advancements in the field of vocabulary learning and vocabulary instruction, the implementation of Common Core State Standards, and the increase in the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in school with smaller vocabularies were some of the justifiable reasons that propelled Graves to write this second edition. Throughout the book, Graves provides myriad suggestions for the often inordinate task of choosing which vocabulary words to teach through direct instruction. Graves relates this particular word-learning endeavor across the listening, reading, discussing, and writing areas of development within the context of the classroom.

This book comprehensively describes his four-part program for vocabulary instruction from kindergarten through high school: (a) frequent, varied, and extensive language experiences; (b) teaching individual words; (c) teaching word-learning strategies; and (d) fostering word consciousness. Graves offers sound advice regarding the amount of classroom time teachers should allocate to each of the four parts. Graves also discusses six strategies that can be used to help all students become independent word-learners, including: using word parts; using context clues; using the dictionary; recognizing and dealing with multi-word units; developing a strategy for dealing with unknown words; and adopting a personal approach to building vocabulary.

Graves infuses theory into practice effortlessly. Critical issues of oral language, motivation, and finding time to provide vocabulary instruction were aptly addressed. Explicit connections to the Common Core State Standards were made, and the inclusion of a chapter exclusively dedicated to ELLs certainly warranted a new edition. Overall, we felt that Graves’ second edition of The Vocabulary Book is a timely, valuable, language-friendly, and compact resource for K-12 teachers. Many strategies and suggestions were provided with sufficient detail so that any K-12 educator can confidently employ the plethora of activities with the likelihood of success.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 10, 2017 ID Number: 22132

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