Sunday, October 21, 2012

MCVIP – A Multi-Faceted, Comprehensive Vocabulary Instruction Program (Baumann, Manyak, Blachowicz, Graves, Arner, Bates, Cieply, Davis, Peterson, & Olejnik)

This post is courtesy of the MCVIP vocabulary research team, which includes primary investigators Jim Baumann (University of Missouri-Columbia), Patrick Manyak (University of Wyoming), and Camille Blachowicz (National Louis University). Mike Graves (University of Minnesota, Emeritus) has been a consultant on the project, and it has been his research and writing that have formed the basis for the MCVIP instructional framework (see Mike's prior post. Also see his newest book, Teaching Vocabulary to English Language Learners by Graves, August, and Mancilla-Martinez). Other persons whose work is represented in this post and who have been instrumental in both developing MCVIP and conducting the research on it are Steven Olejnik (University of Georgia, Emeritus), Jeni Davis (University of South Florida), Justin Arner (Hillsborough Co., FL, Schools), Heather Peterson (Wyoming), and Char Cieply and Ann Bates (National Louis). Most importantly, we wish to acknowledge the teacher-participants, co-researchers, and professional friends whose expertise, enthusiasm, and insight made this project possible. Thanks to David Autenrieth, Julie O'Farrell, Carolyn Gillis, Elizabeth McDermott, Dianne Williams (Wyoming); Marie Chang-Pisano, Carol Clay, Kelly De Rosa, Tom Erf, Vanessa Herrera, Colleen Kelly, Julia Starenko (National Louis); Elizabeth Quintero, Brent Wade, Jill Walters, Heidi Watson (Missouri). A recent publication in which the researchers have contributed one or more chapters on or related to MCVIP is Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (2nd ed., Kame’enui & Baumann, 2012). The research team also has a web site under construction, on which detailed information and lessons from MCVIP will be available upon its completion.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Click any graphic to enlarge it. Right-click to save it. This post elaborates on a prior post:  The Four-Ply Vocabulary Plan.
Four Components of MCVIP
MCVIP is a research and development project funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. MCVIP is based on Graves’s (2006, 2009) four-component vocabulary program, which includes “(1) providing rich and varied language experiences; (2) teaching individual words; (3) teaching word-learning strategies; and (4) fostering word consciousness” (2006, p. 5). Working from these four components, we have developed and evaluated the implementation of MCVIP in multiple Grade 4 and 5 classrooms in three states.

1. Providing Rich and Varied Language Experiences:
We know that students learn words informally through context by being immersed in a fertile vocabulary environment. To promote vocabulary learning through rich and varied language experiences, MCVIP teachers do the following:
Lead Students in Character Trait Analysis (Manyak, 2007) lessons, which involve reading engaging, grade-appropriate picture books and then focusing on words that describe the behaviors or actions of characters in the picture books. For example, after reading aloud Mailing May (Tunnell, 2000), the students discussed characters in the story to determine if they are ingenious, glum, cross, or plucky.  

Use Vocabulary Graphics to build relational sets of words with frames and semantic maps. For Example in Keep the Light Burning, Abbie (Roop, Roop & Hanson, 1985) students used a Vocabogram (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2010) for discussing how authors used words like seafarer, wicks, and emotion in structuring their story. Vocabulary graphics promoted team talk, class discussion, and writing.

Read Aloud to Students and Provide Time for Independent Reading and Writing. Specifically, MCVIP teachers:

-- Schedule time regularly for students to read quality, self-selected books and other materials from multiple genres, which exposes them to new words in natural contexts.

-- Provide a regular time for writing, during which students can experiment with their growing vocabulary knowledge as they prepare compositions.

-- Engage students regularly in rich oral discussions, during which they begin to use the words they have learned (or are learning) in speech. They also infer the meanings of words they hear from speakers, all in a safe, supportive environment.

-- Establish a literate classroom environment that supports students’ vocabulary activities and experiences. This environment includes a large classroom library and displays MCVIP word walls, instructional charts, and students own vocabulary work.

2. Teaching Individual Words
Students must learn and know well many specific individual words to be proficient language learners and users. To achieve this goal, MCVIP teachers provide instruction in two types of words: 

Teach High Frequency Words that appear regularly in written text across multiple genres but go beyond the highest frequency words (e.g., basic sight vocabulary). For example, some of the fourth-grade high frequency words include struggled, worthy, prevented, vast, and rationale—words that appear commonly in written texts but which students may not know or know only in a limited fashion.

Teach Domain-Specific-Academic Vocabulary: words and expressions found in textbooks and other curricular materials that are essential for understanding and learning the content. For example, several MCVIP teachers taught a science unit titled Nature Unleashed, during which they taught academic vocabulary like organism, population, and ecosystem, which enabled students to understand and learn the science content.

Vocabulary Review Activities are essential for long-term learning. For example, MCVIP teachers use Word Walls and other tools (e.g., Smartboards, rings of word cards of words taught, dictionaries and thesauruses, games and other activities) to provide students regular review of words that had been introduced and taught.

3. Teaching Word-Learning Strategies
Another essential component of a balanced, comprehensive vocabulary instruction program is teaching students to be independent word learners. To achieve this goal, MCVIP teachers provide instruction in three types of word-learning strategies.  

Contextual Analysis is a reader’s ability to infer word meanings by using clues available in the sentences and paragraphs around an unknown word. MCVIP teachers provide instruction in several types of context clues, first in short, instructional texts and then in longer, authentic texts. 

Morphemic Analysis, sometimes called structural analysis, is a reader’s ability to recognize and use word parts that include root words, prefixes, suffixes, Latin and Greek word roots, and, as appropriate, Spanish cognates.MCVIP teachers teach lessons on frequently occurring prefixes and suffixes that are organized into semantic families. They also teach high-utility Latin and Greek roots. Lessons in contextual analysis and morphemic analysis are followed by considerable guided and independent practice in different types of texts. 

Dictionaries and Thesauruses were available to students in their classrooms and became integral in MCVIP. Students referred to them during lessons, and they used them regularly when looking for precise words to include in their written compositions.  

4. Fostering Word Consciousness 
Successful language users develop word consciousness, or “an awareness of and interest in words and their meanings” (Graves, 2006, p. 7). Word consciousness also involves curiosity about word "histories, relationships with other words, word parts, and most importantly, the way writers use words effectively to communicate” (Nagy, 2005, p. 30). MCVIP teachers address word consciousness in several ways, which include:  

Focusing on Word Categories and Relationships, in which students look for or generate semantic clusters. These may include synonymous groups of words, synonym/antonym pairs, or words on a semantic continuum (e.g., very hot to very cold) that demonstrate the multiple words that denote certain ideas and how the word have connotative difference.  

Promoting Word-Play, in which students and teachers explore how writers and speakers use figurative language (e.g., simile, metaphor, personification) or playful or clever word usage (e.g., oxymorons, onomatopoeia, spoonerisms, puns, Tom Swiftys). MCVIP teachers also provide students opportunities to play word games, puzzles, and riddles (e.g., hink-pinks, anagrams, palindromes). These activities promote students’ interest in words and enhance their motivation to learn and explore new words and to include them in their speech and writing.

MCVIP has been shown to be effective across our three-year research project, which was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education. Our teacher co-researchers implemented MCVIP in their fourth- and fifth-grade classroom. Quantitative and qualitative findings indicated that students grew in word knowledge, acquired the ability to use word-learning strategies to infer the meanings of previously unknown words, and developed an interest in and awareness of the importance and power of a strong vocabulary.


Blachowicz, C. L. Z., & Fisher, P. (2010). Teaching vocabulary in all classrooms (4th ed.). Englewood   Cliffs, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Graves, M. F. (2006). The vocabulary book: Learning and instruction. New York: Teachers College Press.

Graves, M. F. (2009). Teaching individual words: One size does not fit all. New York: Teachers College Press and International Reading Association.

Kame'enui, E. J., & Baumann, J. F. (Eds.). (2012). Vocabulary instruction: Research to practice. (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.

Manyak, P. (2007). Character trait vocabulary: A schoolwide approach. The Reading Teacher, 60, 574–577.

Nagy, W. E. (2005). Why vocabulary instruction needs to be long-term and comprehensive. In E. H. Hiebert & M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice (pp. 27-44). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Roop, P., Roop, C., & Hanson, P. E. (1985). Keep the lights burning, Abbie. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.

Tunnell, M. O. (2000). Mailing May. New York: Greenwillow.


  1. Jessica Franklin10/21/2012

    These are some great resources. We do trait analysis, but now I want to try the vocabogram idea. Thanks!

  2. Fran Ebbers10/22/2012

    I taught ninth grade English for many years, all levels. I read aloud to my students daily. I read short chapters from novels and poetry, too. Their favorites were the Shel Silverstein poems and Dr. Seuss. I like to think this encouraged their independent reading and enjoyment of literature and poetry, in particular.

  3. Lots of great resources here, and I see value in the Four-Part Vocabulary Model. Glad to hear it's proving itself! I will look forward to reading more about your findings.

    Funny thing, when I read your section on the book Mailing May, I thought you meant Missing May, the Newberry winner by Cynthia Rylant. I used to read that with my 8th grade class. A great book, and would work nicely with Manyak's character trait analysis.

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