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Word Wisdom: An Effective, Research-Based Vocabulary Program

One of the most important aspects of language and literacy learning is building an extensive meaning vocabulary. Developing such a vocabulary can be a challenge due to the unusual size and complexity of the English language. It requires regular and direct instruction.

Word Wisdom is built on research that shows the most effective way for students to develop an extensive vocabulary includes unlocking word meanings by

  • activating prior knowledge.
  • using context clues strategies.
  • analyzing roots and other word parts.

Word Wisdom author Jerry Zutell, PhD., summarizes the foundational research for the program in our white paper, Word Wisdom: An Effective, Research-Based Vocabulary Program.

Download the White Paper

How Were Word Wisdom Vocabulary Words Chosen?

  • The words are Tier Two academic words, selected based on word frequency studies. Tier Two words should be the focus of instruction because they are unlikely to be learned independently through conversation and appear frequently in written text across many subjects.1
  • Dr. Zutell referenced multiple word-frequency studies to select the words for each grade level of the program and carefully considered how each word would support teaching effective word-learning strategies.
  • The words in each unit are thematically linked to help students build strong meaning relationships among the words.2


Why Do Students Need Explicit Vocabulary Instruction?

  • Research has consistently shown a strong relationship between vocabulary and reading comprehension.3
  • Regular, direct teaching keeps students focused on the importance of learning words and gives them the tools to unlock word meanings in their reading.
  • The English language is extremely complex and large, and it continues to change. Students encounter more than 88,500 word families in grades 3–9.4
  • Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction, 2nd ed. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
  • Rasinski, T., & Zutell, J. (2010). Essential strategies for word study: Effective methods for improving decoding, spelling, and vocabulary. New York, NY: Scholastic.
  • Ouellette, G. P. (2006). What's reading got to do with it? The role of vocabulary in word reading and reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(3), 554–566.
  • Anderson, R., & Nagy, W. (1992). The vocabulary conundrum. American Educator, 16(4), 14–18, 44–47.