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Research report

Teaching vocabulary to Grade 4 students

The education research community generally agrees on the benefits of pedagogical practices involving the explicit in-depth teaching of vocabulary (i.e. word form, meaning and contextual use) for helping students overcome difficulties in mastering written French, unlike practices that involve the memorization of word lists (which are nonetheless the most widespread practices in Québec schools).

Explicit teaching of the various word attributes led to an expanded vocabulary and better spelling.

In collaboration with teachers and based on identified theoretical and empirical studies, we devised and tested three experimental conditions on 243 students in 12 regular Grade 4 classes: 1) the memorization of word lists, 2) the explicit and multidimensional teaching of vocabulary, and 3) a control condition (no specific vocabulary instruction). Pre-testing and post-testing allowed us to verify the effects of these three conditions on student performance in reading, spelling and vocabulary tests.

The pedagogical practices resulting from this research will contribute to the integration and implementation of activities explicitly aimed at vocabulary development among students to improve their writing skills in a regular classroom context. The results obtained show that explicit teaching of the various word attributes led to an expanded vocabulary and better spelling among all students in the regular class, regardless of their characteristics, and that memorizing word lists was less effective in supporting spelling and vocabulary learning.


Main researcher: Rachel Berthiaume, Université de Montréal

Original title: L'enseignement du vocabulaire auprès d'élèves de 4e année du primaire en contexte de classe ordinaire : évaluation d'un dispositif d'enseignement en fonction des caractéristiques des élèves

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