Looking for more information on Vocabulary Power Plus Online? Then check out our most recent webinar! In this presentation, learn more about the importance of direct vocabulary instruction, the benefits of digital learning, and the Vocabulary Power Plus Online program structure.

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Welcome! Thanks for joining us to learn about Vocabulary Power Plus Online, or VPPO. Just shortening that title is going to cut the webinar time in half, which is great for all you educators for whom time is most definitely of the essence!

Today, we'll cover each of the items listed here:

  1. Effectiveness of Direct Vocabulary Instruction
  2. Benefits of a Digital Learning Environment/Format
  3. Introduction to Vocabulary Power Plus Online
  4. Vocabulary Power Plus Online Program Structure
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

My name is Josh Corman, and I'm a Writer and Education Specialist here at Prestwick House. I taught high school English for seven and a half years and have been here helping develop, among other things, VPPO. I'm joined by Darlene Gilmore, a Project Editor at Prestwick House. Darlene knows our Vocabulary Power Plus books and VPPO as well as anyone, and she'll be behind the scenes, answering your questions.

Effectiveness of Direct Vocabulary Instruction

Let's start with vocabulary and the question of how we teach it.

There's no doubt that good readers expand their vocabularies through what we might call "incidental" learning: They encounter an unfamiliar word or one that's used in an unfamiliar way, they use context clues, they look up the word, and they learn what it means. Hopefully, that learning is reinforced as they continue to encounter the word. When they see another unfamiliar word, they repeat the process.

But frankly, many students don't practice these habits. Many don't read enough outside of class to acquire vocabulary at a pace in keeping with their grade level. And even those students who do reliably build their vocabularies through their own reading habits can still miss out on grade-level appropriate words. And we all recognize the demands high-stakes tests make of students when it comes to vocabulary.

Direct vocabulary instruction, on the other hand, takes a more active, structured approach that's suited to the kinds of reliably paced growth we like to see from students. Any of us who have thrown a gigantic list of words at students and watched their eyes glaze over can appreciate the value of focusing student attention on narrower goals, allowing students to see themselves having success and learn in manageable increments.

Direct instruction improves reading comprehension because it ensures repeated exposure to new vocabulary and allows students to encounter words in varied contexts so they more fully grasp the meaning of each new word. That incidental learning I mentioned before limits those chances.

Selecting words that are particularly valuable to students at each grade level is critical, and direct instruction affords us the opportunity to tailor the new vocabulary to students. Similarly, direct instruction provides control over the method and timing of instruction through well-developed lessons and activities designed specifically to help students acquire and retain those new words.

Benefits of a Digital Learning Environment/Format

Direct instruction is central to VPPO's makeup, but its other defining characteristic, as the "O" in VPPO makes clear, is that the instruction is delivered online, in a digital environment. Digital platforms offer two benefits that are hard to come by through using only traditional instruction.

One, they're adaptable. Students can work at different paces or an entire class can move through the program together, and work can be accessed, completed, and turned in anywhere with an internet connection. Students are digital natives. They already incorporate their digital lives seamlessly into their real lives, and that includes their experiences in the classroom. A digital platform meets students where they are.

Two, and just as importantly, digital platforms save teachers time and, let's be honest, mental bandwidth by all but eliminating the typical distribute–collect–grade–redistribute–review cycle that once felt like a contractual obligation for English teachers. Teachers can take advantage of that saved time, putting it to one of the hundred uses they might have for an extra hour here and there.

Introduction to Vocabulary Power Plus Online

Now, this combination of direct instruction and a digital platform is what has us so excited to share VPPO with English teachers across the country, but this is far from Prestwick House's first foray into vocabulary instruction.

Vocabulary Power Plus, our primary vocabulary instruction program, has been in print since 2006 and has sold more than 1.5 million copies to date. This twelve-plus year history of providing teachers with well-developed, wide-ranging vocabulary instruction made the idea of expanding into the realm of digital learning something of a no-brainer.

The result of that no-brainer is Vocabulary Power Plus Online, a new offering available for the 2019–2020 school year. Like Vocabulary Power Plus for College and Career Readiness, its online cousin is designed for students in grades 9–12.

VPPO is a browser-based program, so no software download is required, and the program is accessible anywhere with an internet connection. VPPO also features dedicated experiences for both students and teachers, to give you the control you need to make the program work for you and your students.

Vocabulary Power Plus Online Program Structure

To really capture the full scope of what the program does for student learning, we need to talk about VPPO's structure—how the program is built and why that matters. The bottom line is that VPPO is built on instructional principles that combine time-tested teaching methods with recent findings about students' learning habits.

The program's structure is as follows:

  • There is one course for each grade from nine through twelve.
  • Each course comprises twenty-one lessons.
  • Each lesson consists of three five-word segments, fifteen words total per lesson.
  • Students encounter the words that make up these five-word segments in four stages: Learn, Practice, Show, and Apply.
  • Each lesson then concludes with a summative assessment.

VPPO emphasizes short, frequent vocabulary activities that thoroughly reinforce students' acquisition of new words in a way that feels manageable instead of overwhelming. That process of bringing words into students' orbits, giving them a chance to see and use them repeatedly, and then prompting them to use the words in meaningful, context-specific ways is essential, and VPPO's lesson structure is built to offer those opportunities in abundance.

Now, let's take a closer look at exactly what that will look like in practice for students using Vocabulary Power Plus Online.

LEARN introduces students to the new words. In this section, students will see each word broken down phonetically and hear it pronounced both in its entirety and syllable by syllable. They'll also see and hear the part of speech and definition for each word. And they'll get some context, seeing and hearing each word used in a sentence.

I'm a big fan of the audio element here because we've all had that experience of recognizing words in print but not having a clear idea of how to pronounce them, so for the sake of fluency, hearing the words aloud can help with that. It's a more dynamic experience than students might have with a traditional word list.

PRACTICE deepens student understanding of new words through exercises that encourage exploration and provide students with feedback early in the learning process. We want to give students a chance to see and test how these words work without the intimidation that can come from dropping them immediately into a strict, scored, right-and-wrong assessment.

In this section, students will have multiple opportunities to match newly learned words to their definitions, identify synonyms and antonyms, and get immediate feedback as they work to guide their learning.

SHOW lets students demonstrate their developing understanding of new words through exercises that emphasize context. In this section, students will read sentences (that don't include the vocabulary word) and select the vocabulary word that it relates most closely to using their understanding of the word established in the PRACTICE section. They'll also construct new sentences by selecting the word or phrase that best completes a sentence stem that already includes the vocabulary word.

This is where some of the Vocabulary Power Plus print edition content has been adapted and even added to because we identified a couple of spots where we felt like we could really use these context-heavy exercises to lead students into some higher order thinking and push the rigor up a notch.

APPLY asks students to analyze a word's fit at both the sentence and paragraph levels. In this final section, students will place vocabulary words accurately to complete a cloze paragraph as well as choose from a selection of sentences which ones use the vocabulary words correctly.

Earlier, I mentioned that each lesson would end with a summative assessment. The APPLY section is NOT that summative assessment. Those assessments will be free-standing quizzes we're developing to capture students' learning across these four sections.

Direct instruction, repeated use of new words, and a wide array of context-centric practice opportunities. VPPO uses these core principals so that students develop and retain—we all know the retention part is key—a multifaceted understanding of the words they learn.

Students are going to see and use these words at least six different times, each time being asked to really think about how the words work in context.

We want students to do well from a performance perspective on whatever vocabulary-dependent assessments they face, but we also want them to know and actually use the words going forward, and we feel VPPO is built to get them there.

Before we dive into answering your questions, let me officially draw your attention to the white paper, Advantages of Direct Vocabulary Instruction in a Digital Format. It's a great resource for those, like me, who, before I adopted anything, I wanted to poke under the hood a little and really understand the research and thinking behind it. So check that out and feel free to follow up with any questions you or your colleagues might have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let's kick off the Q&A with a few questions that some folks have thrown our way as they've learned that Vocabulary Power Plus Online is in the pipeline.

Does VPPO come with the books?

Vocabulary Power Plus Online was built as an independent program with the focused vocabulary exercises of the book series adapted for online use. The books are separate and contain the additional test prep, reading, and writing sections. They will be made available in specially priced packages with the online program.

How do you use the books in conjunction with the online program?

The books are not required to use the online program, but they do contain additional test prep, reading, and writing sections and can be used as a supplement if needed or wanted.

Which Vocabulary Power Plus series is this modeled after?

Vocabulary Power Plus Online has the same word list and is adapted from the latest version of the print program, Vocabulary Power Plus for College and Career Readiness.

How are the questions scored?

All materials in the program will be computer-graded, so there's no need for teachers to manually grade student assignments. Obviously, how you manage the value and weight of student scores on those activities is entirely up to you.

Is this individualized to each student's level so they progress as they go through the exercises and assessments?

The online program follows the same path as the workbook series with the words from each level selected for typical students at that grade level.

About Vocabulary Power Plus Online

New for the 2019-20 school year, Vocabulary Power Plus Online is a fully digital program designed to strengthen high school students' vocabulary skills in just minutes a week.

In each level of Vocabulary Power Plus Online, your students will learn more than 300 new vocabulary words through short lessons and interactive activities. Engaging exercises reinforce word understanding and retention and let students demonstrate their word mastery. The program also includes individualized student reporting, allowing you to evaluate each student's progress with ease.

For more information about this program, visit the Vocabulary Power Plus Online page!