Assessing Vocabulary

First, it is important to discuss what a good vocabulary assessment is not. The type of assessment that simply requires students to fill in the blank, multiple choice and matching are not very helpful in gaining vocabulary knowledge. These types of assessments do not go deep enough into the level of understanding needed for comprehension.

In an article found in The Reading Teacher titled Contemporary Classroom Vocabulary Assessment for Content Areas (Stahl & Bravo, 2010, 566-578), we are given three different vocabulary assessments.

Vocabulary Knowledge Scale is one of these assessments, which correlates nicely with the stages of development we expect to see in children. When a student is asked if they know a specific vocabulary word their answer can fall into one of these categories: 1) I don’t remember having seen this word before. 2) I have seen this word before, but I don’t think I know what it means. 3) I have seen this word before and I think it means _____.  4) I know this word. It means _____. Or 5) I can use this word in a sentence: ____________. This allows us to better assess the level at which the student understands the word.

The Vocabulary Recognition Task assesses student’s knowledge of words in a certain category.  For example, words that all have to do with the parts of a flower. This assessment can first be given as a pretest to determine a classes’ prior knowledge of the subject and areas the teacher may need to pay more attention to during instruction. To assess the class, each student is given a bank of 25 words related to a specific topic (i.e. parts of a flower). However, seven of these words are not related to the topic, and the student must determine which of these words don’t belong. Then, at the end of the unit, the pretest can be given again to assess how much content knowledge the student gained. Students are also asked to make a concept web, separating each word into a category. This helps to display the student’s knowledge that they not only can read the word, but also that they know how it relates to the words around it. A variety of adjustments can be made to this assessment as well, depending on the amount of content to be covered, the prior knowledge the class has, and the age of the students.

The last assessment given in the reading is the Vocabulary Assessment Magazine. This assessment is broken up into two parts. The first part asks a student to read a passage and answer a set of questions afterwards. These questions are designed to make students think about what they read in the passage and answer using critical thinking. They will not be able to go back to the passage and pick the answer out directly from the reading. The second part asks students to illustrate a specific topic they read in the passage. For example, if they read a passage about the water cycle they would illustrate the process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.