Contemporary Classroom Vocabulary Assessment for Content Areas

Contemporary Classroom Vocabulary Assessment for Content Areas

Katherine A. Dougherty Stahl, Marco A. Bravo

By Dan McCarron

Purpose of Study

This study highlights the issues regarding the effectiveness of commercially produced tests pertaining to vocabulary knowledge.

It also provides teachers with new and innovative tools to create more practical and beneficial vocabulary assessments. The study also offers guidelines to improve teachers delivery of vocabulary instruction.

Highlighted were three variations of classroom vocabulary assessment for teachers to consider:

Three Classroom Assessments

The Assessments highlighted in the article all feature both a pretest and posttest portions of assessment, that are administered during a given unit.

Benefits of the highlighted assessments:

All provide information and direction to help guide instruction.

Each assessment produces documented evidence of vocabulary development, over a fixed timeframe.

Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS)

This is an assessment that reports on a student’s self-reported knowledge of a given word and combines it with a constructed response

It provides documentation on student correlation of perceived knowledge and actual knowledge

It is administered initially as a pretest, and then again as a posttest after the corresponding unit is taught

Assessment # 1

How VKS is administered

Prior to beginning a new unit or text, students are initially asked to identify their knowledge of a targeted word and are scored in accordance to their level of understanding.

Students responses are then scored using a 1-5 point system based on current word knowledge

Point system reflects accuracy of student’s self-reporting, as well knowledge of target words

VKS Scoring Guide

I don’t remember having seen this word before. (1 point)

I have seen this word before, but I don’t think I know what it means. (2 points)

I have seen this word before, and I think it means __________. (Synonym or translation; 3 points)

I know this word. It means ______. (Synonym or translation; 4 points)

I can use this word in a sentence: _____. (If you can do this, please also do category 4; 5 points)

Assessment # 1

What VKS looks like

This is an example of the principles of VKS being applied to a unit on Native Americans in a Second grade classroom

Figure 1: VKS pretest (Dougherty Stahl, Bravo 2010)

Figure 2 : VKS posttest (Dougherty Stahl, Bravo 2010)

Vocabulary Recognition Task (VRT)

VRT is a teacher created yes-no task use to approximate student vocabulary recognition in a given content area.

In similar fashion to VKS, VRT combines self-reported knowledge with demonstrated knowledge.

The basis for this assessment was to help identify content-related words that students could both read and associate with a particular unit or subject.

Assessment # 2

How does VRT work?

The VRT is comprised of a teacher-constructed word bank related to the specific content area. The majority of this word bank is made up of words related to the specified subject area, along with a small number of unrelated words mixed in as well.

As a pretest, students are provided the word bank and asked to circle the words they could read, and if they believed the word had to do with the provided topic (See figure 3)

For a posttest, students were asked to categorize given words under provided headings (See figure 4)

Assessment # 2

Figure 3 VRK Pretest and Posttest(Dougherty Stahl, Bravo 2010)

Figure 4 Posttest (Dougherty Stahl, Bravo 2010)

VRT Benefits

The VRT assessment provides teachers with valuable information about how they can make changes and shape their instruction.

VRT pretests provide the teacher an opportunity to determine which words need to have more instruction time devoted, and which in-turn allows an opportunity to minimize waste time.

VRT posttests can also help teachers identify areas of their instruction that could be improved.

Assessment # 2

Vocabulary Assessment Magazine (VAM)

The Vocabulary Assessment Magazine (VAM) is an assessment that measures knowledge on a specific subject, understanding of strategy use, and reading comprehension of related texts. There are two main parts of this assessment:

The first asks for students to read brief subject specific passages, followed by open-ended literacy questions about the passage. These questions prompted students to utilize comprehension strategies.

The second asks for students to draw a picture related to the given topic, and then write a few sentences about their drawings. Students typically were found to have used more terminology related the specific topic. (See figure 5)

Assessment # 3

Figure 5 VAM Pretest

(Dougherty Stahl, Bravo 2010.)

One Final Thought

According to NRP, teachers should use “multiple measures to capture multidimensionality of students vocabulary knowledge” and that standardized measures “lack sensitivity, provide only a baseline measure of global vocabulary knowledge” (NICHD, 2000).

Teacher-produced assessments in short are more efficient than commercially produced standardized tests. Not only are they more reliable, but they are also something that can be sustained and improved with each passing year.


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