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August 8. 2017

How to Test Students' Knowledge of Vocabulary

While the best measure of students’ ability is to observe them while reading continuous text, you can also learn much about their word-solving strategies by having them read individual words. Certainly students should be able to recognize frequently encountered words automatically and unconsciously. You can create your own informal assessments to detect whether students can recognize and/or pronounce words in isolation.

You can also create inventories that will provide information about their knowledge of vocabulary. To begin:
  1. Create a list of words. Use a graded list, take words from a basal series, or pull words from content areas.
  2. Ask the student to read each word, use it in a sentence, explain the meaning, or provide a synonym or antonym. For a written test, you can have them match words with meanings, synonyms, or antonyms or provide multiple-choice answers.
  3. Look at the results. What do students know about words? What kinds of connections do they make? What can you learn from partially correct responses? The answers will help you plan your word study program and inform your work with students in guided and independent reading.
Keep in mind that there are many ways of knowing words, and any test of words in isolation can only provide limited information.

From Guiding Readers & Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
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