The Problem Is Vocab, Not Grammar

This post is not about teaching grammar. This post is about its role in comprehension. Grammar can tell you a word’s function, but what impact does that have if you’re struggling to understand what words mean?! It’s still all about words. In fact, all words contain grammar. If you know what a word means, you’re a little bit closer to acquiring its grammar each time you encounter it. In this post, I use a language I’ve made up for other demonstrations, aptly dubbed Piantagginish, to show how vocab—not grammar—is the real problem regarding comprehension. The pedagogical takeaway is to avoid vocab overload, and shelter vocab whenever possible…

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How Comprehensible Must Reading Be?

Marcos Benevides’ Slideshare PPT has been floating around for over a year now. It’s a powerful illustration of how unknown words affect reading fluency (speed + accuracy), especially for anyone who thinks students will be OK reading anything that’s less than 98% comprehensible.

Still, the syntactical clues in Marcos’ PPT helped native speakers. In order to simulate a student’s reading experience more accurately, I removed those clues. Here’s the result (download, here, for sharing):

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