Monday, March 24, 2008

Strategies for Vocabulary Development (Part II)

Following the suggestions of Hunt and Beglar about using graded readers material developers must now create graded readers. Rob Waring in his article Writing a Graded Reader (2002) breaks down the process for us. Not only does Waring concur with Hunt and Beglar’s proposal of using graded readers as stepping stones for L2 students, he provides: (1) an overview of different types of graded readers, (2) guidelines on how to use them in the language classroom, (3) arguments in favor of their usage along with supporting research, and (4) points to consider for potential authors of graded readers.

Waring (2002) mentions two different ways to approach the writing of a graded reader. The first is to write a good story without simplifying the language with the assumption that any necessary abridgement can be done at a later time. The second is to consult people with experience in EFL/ESL, and ask them to write for a particular audience and ability level. All things considered, he stresses that the story should be the most important consideration when writing a graded reader. He argues that a good graded reader should indeed be a good read regardless of the level of simplicity needed for a specific L2 audience to understand it.

In addition to guidelines on how to write a graded reader, Rob Waring pairs up with Paul Nation to review the connection between L2 reading and vocabulary acquisition. In their article Second Language Reading and Incidental Vocabulary Learning (2004), they discuss how many words a student needs to know in order to be an effective reader in L2; the rate of vocabulary attainment and permanence; the number of times a student should encounter a word before learning it; and the preservation of newly learned words.

Investigations cited in the article suggest that, in order for a reader to have adequate comprehension of a text he must have a coverage rate of at least 95% of the words encountered. Furthermore they explain that for a student to read effectively in English they should have knowledge of around 5000 word families. It must be noted that both the coverage rate and the range of vocabulary words needed for satisfactory understanding of a text increases with the heavy cognitive burdens of academic texts (Waring & Nation, 2004).

They also discuss a review of studies on vocabulary growth derived from reading in L2. The review supported the idea that students can acquire new vocabulary through supplementary readings. However, a student may need to encounter a word 20 or more times for adequate word knowledge to take place (Waring & Nation, 2004).

Once again we find that students must be exposed to materials that are easily accessible and at their ability level in order to promote new vocabulary learning (Hunt & Beglar, 1998; Waring & Nation, 2002). Thus Waring and Nation’s (2004) article supports the creation of materials based on the ability level of the L2 learners being taught, which can be in the form of graded readers as suggested by Hunt and Beglar (1998) and Waring (2002).

On the other hand investigations by Hustijn; and Zahar, Cobb, and Spada have shown that explicit exposure to vocabulary is more effective for vocabulary development than incidental learning (Waring & Nation, 2002). Therefore explicit vocabulary development, as well as the use of graded readers, should be an essential component for efficient vocabulary development.

Next to come, strategies on explicit vocabulary instruction.


Waring, R. (2002). Writing a graded reader. The Language Teacher, 26(7).

Waring, R. & Nation, P. (2004). Second language reading and incidental vocabulary learning. Angles on the English-Speaking World, 4. Retrieved on March 20, 2008 from

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