And Comprehension Improvement
Presentation provided by UTPB West Texas Literacy Center, an HSI funded program. HSI is a federally funded program granted by the
Department of Education Title V programs. Developed by Ana Miller, M.A., Reading Specialist
Listening – Established by the time student
Speaking – Words used in everyday speech
Reading – Body of words students must know if
they are to read increasingly demanding text
with fluency and comprehension
◦ On average, students add 2,000-3,000 words a year to
their reading vocabularies
Six to eight words per day
The vocabulary of the average young adult is
Learning word parts produces a multiplier
effect….a single prefix can unlock the meaning of
50 or more words!
◦ The number of words that a student knows, at least at a
◦ How well the student knows a word, including
pronunciation, spelling, meaning, frequency, and
morphological and syntactic properties
Morphology – The formation, internal structure, and
derivations of words
Syntax – The arrangement of words within phrases, clauses,
Tier One – In spoken vocabulary: mother, clock,
Tier Two – Words with wide usage that most
readers do not have in their spoken
vocabularies: dismayed, paradoxical, absurd,
wary. Estimated 7,000 words
Tier Three – Highly specialized and are almost
never used outside of the disciplines where they
are encountered: monozygotic, tetrahedron,
◦ Wide reading
Readers learn new words by repeatedly encountering them in text
Structural Analysis: The use of word parts
Prefixes- word part added to beginning of a root or word: preheat
Suffixes- word part added to the end of a word or root and usually changes
the word’s part of speech: cloud (n) Cloudy (adj)
Roots-Word parts that carry the basic or core meaning of a word: scrib/script
= write scribble
Compounds-A new word formed by two words: paperwork
Use of context clues
Efficient use of the dictionary
Many words in the English language are made
up of words parts called prefixes, roots, and
◦ These word parts have specific meanings that, when
added together, can help you determine the
meaning of the entire word.
Example: The students thought the book was
in = not
Comprehen = to understand
ible = able to do something; also changes this word from verb to
incomprehensible = not able to understand
Learning is more meaningful if you can see the
relationship among terms.
Each of the four words has as it root therm, which
means “heat.” The meaning of the prefix, or
beginning, of each word is given below.
Poikilo = changeable
Homeo = same or constant
Endo = within
ecto = outside
Knowing the meanings can help you determine the meaning of each
Poikilotherm = organism with variable body temperature (i.e., cold-
Homeotherm = organism with stable body temperature (i.e., warm-
Endotherm = organism that regulates its temperature internally
Ectotherm= organism that regulates its temperature by taking in
heat from the environment or giving off heat to the environment.
In most cases, a word is built upon at least one root.
Words can have more than one prefix, root, or suffix.
◦ Two or more roots – geo/logy: earth/study of
◦ Two prefixes – in/sub/ordination: not/under/order
◦ Two suffixes – beauti/ful/ly: beauty/full of- noun to
adjective/ly- adjective to adverb
Words do not always have a prefix and a suffix.
◦ Some words have neither a prefix or a suffix – read
◦ Others have a suffix but no prefix – read/ing
◦ Others have a prefix but no suffix – pre/read
• The spelling of roots may change as they are combined with suffixes – Root: terr/terre = territory
• Different prefixes, roots, or suffixes may have the same meaning:
bi-, di-, duo- all mean two
• Sometimes you may identify a group of letters as a prefix or root but find that it does not carry the
meaning of that prefix or root:
• Ex. The letters mis in the word missile are part of the root and are not the prefix mis- which
means “wrong; bad”
Websites that provide Prefix, Suffix, and Root Tables (meanings and examples)
The words around an unfamiliar word that give
you clues about the unknown word’s meaning
◦ The couple finally secured a table at the popular,
By using the clues around the word secured, the reader
can determine that secured means “able to get.”
Sometimes a writer will provide a formal definition of
the unknown word:
The settlers reached the piedmont, a gently rolling
foothill area between a plain and mountains.
More often a writer will provide a synonym or a brief
phrase that defines the unfamiliar word:
The king’s laws were often arbitrary; in other words, he
made rules based on how he felt at the moment.
Common signal words: which is, in other words, also
known as, also called, that is, or
Commas –The amateur figure skater surpassed, or
exceeded, the judges’ expectations.
Dashes – The sculptor usually created a maquette –
a small model – before beginning work on the actual
Parentheses – Thick layers of loess (wind-blown silt)
cover regions of the Mississippi River Valley.
These definitions or synonyms may not be
found in the same sentence but elsewhere in
The context in which a word appears may include one or
more examples that are clues to the unknown word’s
Our science class is studying crustaceans, such as
lobsters, shrimp, and crab.
Crustaceans must be sea animals with an exoskeleton
and segmented body parts.
Words signaling Example context clues:
like for example other including
for instance such as these include
The writer compares the unfamiliar word with more familiar
words. By noting the similarities between the things
described, the reader can get an idea of the meaning of the
The amethyst, like other precious stones known for
hardness, cannot be cut with a knife or scratched by glass.
An amethyst must be a valuable gem that has the
properties of a diamond.
Words Signaling a Comparison:
like similar to similarly resembling
likewise related in the same way
The writer states how the meaning of the unfamiliar word
is different or opposite from the clue.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was concise, in sharp
contrast to the long-winded, two-hour speech that he
A concise speech is opposite of a long speech, so
concise must mean brief or short.
Words Signaling a Contrast or Antonym
but on the other hand instead
differently on the contrary although
however in contrast to unlike
The cause of an action or event may be stated using an
unfamiliar word. If the effect is stated in familiar terms, it
can help the reader understand the unknown word.
The weeds in the garden are so profuse, that I can no
longer see the flowers.
Cause-There are many weeds.
Effect-You can’t see the flowers.
Profuse must mean a large quantity.
Words Signaling Cause and Effect
because consequently that so
since therefore as a result
Often the context clues are in the surrounding
sentences, and the reader must infer or make an
educated guess about the unknown word’s meaning.
A single piece of information several sentences away
from the unfamiliar word may be an important clue.
By the middle of the semester, Bob started to see the
fallacy in this thinking. Since he had done well in high
school without doing much reading or schoolwork, he
thought he could continue this routine in college. He now
realized he had been mistaken. He would have to work
to earn the grades.
Fallacy must mean to make an error in judgment.
Not all sentences or text contain context clues.
You will need to use other methods to determine
the word’s meaning.
◦ Some suggestions:
Pronounce the word aloud. You may hear a word or word
part that you know or that you may recall, within the
Carefully analyze the word’s parts.
Look up the word in the dictionary.
Baumann, J.F., & Kameenui, E.J. (1991). Research on vocabulary instruction: Ode
to Voltaire. In J. Flood, D. Lapp, & J. R. Squire (Eds.), Handbook of research
on teaching the English language arts (pp. 604-632). New York:Macmillan.
McWhorter, K. (2006). Guide to College Reading. New York: Pearson
McWhorter, K. (2006). Vocabulary simplified: Strategies for building your college
vocabulary. New York: Pearson Longman.
Quian, D.D. (1998). Depth of vocabulary knowledge: Assessing its role in adults’
reading comprehension in English as a second language.Unpublished doctoral
dissertation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Quian, D. D. (1999). Assess the roles of depth and breadth of vocabulary knowledge
in reading comprehension. Canadian Modern Language Review, 56, 282-308.
Texas Education Agengy. 2003). Promoting vocabulary development:
Components of effective vocabulary instruction, Texas Reading Initiative,
Austin, TX, (No. GEO1 105 04).