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Bite-size learning or feasting on knowledge?

Bite-size learning or feasting on knowledge?

The best approach to vocabulary teaching: Bite-size learning or feasting on knowledge? 

There are two main approaches to word learning: the first is called distributed practice and involves learning a few words thoroughly every day -- we can call this practice bite-size learning; the second is called massed practice and consists of ‘binging’ on multiple new words on a single day -- we can call this practice ‘cramming’. So which of the two works best?

Several research studies provide support for the effectiveness of the bite-size approach. Specifically, one study found that this practice was 90% more effective than cramming (Kornell, 2009). Another study found that students who learned new vocabulary through the bite-size practice remembered 35% more words in the long run than the students that were taught the same vocabulary through cramming (Bloom & Shuell, 1981).

Overall then, it looks like vocabulary learning is similar to leading a healthy lifestyle: in the same way that if you exercise heavily once a month and only eat healthily for a day you are unlikely to lose weight, in the case of vocabulary too, if you try to teach a child too many new words in one go, these words are unlikely to be retained (Marulis & Neuman, 2010; Smith, 2008). In both healthy lifestyle and learning, the key to success is consistency and perseverance.

 

"Vocabulary learning is similar to leading a healthy lifestyle: the key to success is consistency and perseverance."

 

The reason why bite-size practice is more effective seems to be that new words are more likely to enter the long-term memory in that case, whereas in ‘crammed’ teaching, new words don’t make it beyond the working memory.  

Exactly, because taking bite-sized vocabulary lessons every day is more effective than trying to learn as many words as possible in one go, Mrs Wordsmith created the R-r-ready for School Word a Day and the Storyteller’s Word a Day to help you make word learning a part of your everyday routine in the most fun and engaging way.

References:

Bloom, K. C., T. J. Shuell. (1981). Effects of Massed and Distributed Practice on the Learning and Retention of Second-Language Vocabulary. Journal of Educational Research 74 (4): 245– 248.

Coyne, M., McCoach, D., Loftus, S., Zipoli Jr, R., Ruby, M., Crevecoeur, Y., Kapp, S. (2010). Direct and Extended Vocabulary Instruction in Kindergarten: Investigating Transfer Effects. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 3(2), 93-120.

Kornell, N. (2009), Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than cramming. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., 23, 1297-1317.

Marulis, L., & Neuman, S. (2010). The Effects of Vocabulary Intervention on Young Children's Word Learning: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 80(3), 300-335. Smith, T. (2008). Teaching Vocabulary Expeditiously: Three Keys to Improving Vocabulary Instruction. The English Journal, 97(4), 20-25.