FSU Professor Develops Vocabulary Enhancement Program

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A group of third graders at Sabal Palm Elementary are getting 'hooked' on vocabulary. Through a Jeopardy style game, students huddle into groups to decide which vocabulary word fits a respective sentence.

"If the parent has a large vocabulary, they will share that vocabulary with their child, whereas if their vocabulary is small, they won't be able to share as much with their children," said instructor Lila Boles.

The thought is that an increased vocabulary increases self esteem, as well as test scores.

Florida State professor Howard Goldstein has taken this theory and developed a new vocabulary enhancement program. It's being used with kindergartners and first graders in the form of listening centers.

"We're teaching these rather sophisticated words through scripts, where children are listening through their headphones. They are responding, listening to definitions, examples. They say things out loud, provide examples and repeat the words," said Goldstein, whose received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund his research.

Third grade teachers at Sable Palm have taken similar measures in their classrooms and have seen the results in test scores and student attitude.

"We feel that our students have definitely not just memorized the words, but they are applying them in their daily living skills," said instructor Sabrina Mack.

"They are not exposed to a lot of the terminology they see on standardized tests. But now, since we have exposed them to a whole lot, they are able to go with it and tackle the words and use the language correctly," said instructor Lashanda Nelson.

The overall goal is for students to see gains in cognitive ability and academic achievement. Goldstein's research involves the study of close to 300 students over the course of three years.