Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The correlation between vocabulary and success

Stdt lwr 2-edIn the September Student Lawyer, Bryan Garner reminds law students of the importance of a good vocabulary. He cites University of Virginia professor emeritus E.D. Hirsch, Jr., whose review of the research showed “there’s a positive correlation between a student’s vocabulary size in grade 12, the likelihood that she will graduate from college, and her future level of income.” Hirsch argues for more systematic teaching of vocabulary in the first through twelfth grades. For law students, Garner offers a quiz to test their understanding of words used in Supreme Court opinions. And to improve their vocabularies, Garner recommends Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis’s 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary and Maxwell Nurnberg and Morris Rosenblum’s How to Build a Better Vocabulary.

My own recommendation is for students to read good, edited books. As Hirsch explains, K-12 students best absorb vocabulary through “a systematic curriculum that presents new words in familiar contexts, thereby enabling the student to make correct meaning-guesses unconsciously.” Though law students have passed that stage, they might start reading books from the ABA Journal’s list of the best law-related novels, previously discussed on this blog.

Read Garner's article here.


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