Teacher Vocabulary Use and Student Language and Literacy Achievement

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Purpose: We sought to examine second grade teachers’ word use throughout the school day to identify the amount and type of teacher vocabulary use across content areas as well as to examine relationships between this teacher talk and student language and literacy achievement. Method: Second grade teachers (n = 64) and a random sample of half of their students (n = 619) participated. Teachers recorded instruction during the school day throughout the year, and students were assessed on vocabulary, grammar, and reading measures in the fall and spring. Results: Findings reveal second grade students hear thousands of words spo-ken by the teacher each hour of the school day, including more than a thou-sand different words per hour on average. The large majority of words were the most common words in the English language. On average, there were few aca-demic or curriculum vocabulary words used, but this varied widely between teachers. The proportion of academic words used by teachers during the school day significantly predicted students’ end-of-year vocabulary. Teachers who used more academic words had students with higher vocabulary achievement at the end of the school year. There were no other significant relationships between teachers’ language and student achievement. Conclusions: This correlational evidence adds to the existing knowledge of the importance of academic language to student school outcomes and provides implications for further research in the area of academic language at the early elementary level.




Wanzek, J., Wood, C., & Schatschneider, C. (2023). Teacher Vocabulary Use and Student Language and Literacy Achievement. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 66(9), 3574–3587. https://doi.org/10.1044/2023_JSLHR-22-00605

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