March 2021
RVIS Newsletter



Tom Robb, Kyoto Sangyo University, Kyoto, Japan

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the RVIS, ReadVoc!

This will be my only chance to greet you since Thomas Bieri, the current Co-Chair will be assuming the position of Chair once the forthcoming TESOL Virtual has finished.

Interest Sections exist to give the membership a forum for deepening their understanding of their specific professional interest. We have created the Reading & Vocabulary Interest Section after some of us had been wondering for many years about why we didn't already exist! After all Reading is one of the four basic skills, and perhaps the one that is most important since even those in regions with little or no opportunity to use English in their everyday life, may find reading of English a daily necessity. Well, it took us several years of trying, and now -- Here we are!

You obviously joined the RV-IS because you have a professional interest in either reading, vocabulary or both. I encourage you to use your membership to its fullest. I know that active participation as an officer in the IS may not be everyone's piece of cake. Participation, however, can take many forms and one simple way would be for all members to make use of our online forum on myTESOL. The main function of myTESOL should not be for announcements, but rather for YOU to ask questions and for members to discuss whatever is on their collective minds. We all look forward to seeing myTESOL used to its fullest. It's there year-round just for you!

Historically speaking, Interest Sections tend to have 'seasons'. The seed is planted at the previous Convention, but it doesn't start to germinate until TESOL announces the deadline for the IS Academic Sessions. After a few weeks of negotiations, the fruit has matured and sits there preserved until a few weeks before the event when the panelists take it out to prepare it for service at the coming event. Rather than this scenario, I hope that together we can make the RV-IS one that stays active throughout the year.

RV-IS, as of this writing, as 389 members, which is pretty good since we have only been in existence for less than a year. With your participation, and recommendation to colleagues, I hope that we can double the membership by this time next year.


Tom Robb


Christy Williams University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
Doreen Ewert University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Christy Williams 

Doreen Ewert

Happy New Year to you all!

Due to the pandemic and the resulting transitions, our inaugural newsletter was delayed, but we hope you will find it worth the wait.

One of the goals of the Reading and Vocabulary Interest Section, and this newsletter, is to share our joint expertise to help each other in improving how to teach these fundamental skills to our students. To that end, we have two articles and a book review for you in this first edition as well as information on current research on reading and vocabulary. One article is specifically tailored to reading and the efficacy of Repeating Reading, by Mr. Ethan Lynn, and one article is specifically tailored to vocabulary and what we need to consider in teaching vocabulary, by Dr. Rob Warring. Our book review, from Ms. Janice Cate, discusses a reading phenomenon that can be used in all levels of education. Mr. Lynn will be presenting at the TESOL 2021 conference, so this will be an opportunity to get to know them before you see them. Dr. Waring is a professor at Notre Dame Seishin University in Okayama, Japan. He is a well-respected expert in extensive reading and vocabulary and recently published Teaching Extensive Reading in Another Language with Paul Nation. Ms. Cate, a former president of AMTESOL and past chair of EEIS, is a very active TESOLer. In the author’s byline, there is a link connected to their email. Finally, we are also including a section about recent research on reading and vocabulary as well as a review on a new reading website.

We would love to hear from you and what you would like to see in the July newsletter! We will be accepting contributions for the July newsletter up until June 21st of 2021, and we would like to have articles and reviews from K-12 and Higher Ed as well as ESL/EFL perspectives.

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter!

With utmost respect,

Christy and Doreen


Christy Williams is a Senior Instructor at the INTO University of South Florida. Christy is a mentor, instructional designer, and researcher on intercultural communications and mentoring as well as information and communication technology (ICT) and refugee education. She is currently teaching Beginning Reading and Vocabulary.

Doreen Ewert is a Professor, Rhetoric and Language and Director, Academic English for Multilingual Students Program at the University of San Francisco. She is currently teaching Writing for Psychology and How Language Works.



Rob Waring, Notre Dame Seishin University, Okayama, Japan

When looking at typical EFL classes, courses and materials, it is clear that many basic principles of vocabulary teaching and learning have been forgotten, or ignored. This article reminds us of some of the most fundamental ‘common sense’ aspects of vocabulary teaching and learning and provides some suggestions for ‘best practices.’

Let us start with some of the ‘common sense’ notions about vocabulary teaching and learning.

  • There are two major stages in word learning. The learner first matches the word’s spelling and pronunciation (its form) with its meaning. Sadly, this is where most vocabulary teaching and learning stops. Rarely are the deeper aspects of a word given much attention, such as understanding its collocates or colligates; whether it is formal or informal, spoken or written; its similarity to other words; its shades of meaning; the restrictions on its use; its register.
  • We do not learn a word from one meeting. Nation (2013) shows learners need to have 5-16 meetings, or more, for receptive use. More exposures are needed for fluent, contextually appropriate productive use.
  • Initial word knowledge is fragile and memories of new words not met again soon, are often lost. If a learner has just learned 20 new words, the ‘Forgetting Curve’ (Pimsleur, 1967) reliably predicts that only one or two will be retained in the medium or long term, without review.
  • Teaching does not cause learning. Moreover, teaching and learning do not go lockstep, from the easy to the difficult. Most courses (and coursebooks) are linear in structure presenting something new in each lesson on the assumption that once the unit has been ‘done’, the learners will have ‘mastered’ the content and so can move onto the next new item. Following this principle will not provide the vital systematic recycling of words required for long term retention especially for beginners. Following a ‘one hit’ learning approach almost guarantees a low return on investment, which can lead to demotivation.
  • Nation (2013) suggests that learners need to know about 98% of the words in a text before successful guessing of unknown words can take place. Below 90% coverage, the probability of guessing the meaning of unknown words is almost zero.
  • Not all words are equally useful. Learners should first master the 1500-2000 general service vocabulary found in both general and technical texts.later they can specialize.
  • Some words are more difficult to learn than others. Research suggests that words which are more concrete and closer to a known concept, or are cognates, tend to be learned before those which are more abstract and are relatively dissimilar from the first language.
  • Most collocations and multi-word units are very rare and are not worth learning intentionally. For example, the transparent collocation strong wind occurs only three times per million words, whereas the ‘rarer’ and potentially ‘harder’ word compromise occurs 33 times.
  • Written and spoken vocabulary are different. Fewer (and often different) words are needed for fluent speaking and listening than for reading and writing.
  • Learners learn best by making sense of their own vocabulary and internalizing it. The more deeply they work with the words in conjunction with others in many different contexts and ways, the more likely they will be retained.
  • We do not have enough time to teach everything about a word, so a teacher’s role is to go beyond just teaching and should focus on developing independent word learners who build a sense of how the language fits together themselves.
  • Most vocabulary exercises test, not teach.

And now for the $1,000,000 question. In general, does English language teaching reflect these principles? The simple answer is no, not very well at all.

  • Sun and Dang (2020) show most words taught in EFL coursebooks are not sufficiently recycled later in the same book, or series.
  • Learners following a course have exposure only to words the course covers. However, coursebooks often omit hundreds of high frequency words and phrases (Schmitt and Schmitt, 2020; Nation, 2013). This ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach also ensures the learners’ individual needs are often not met.
  • Many teachers do not take a systematic approach to vocabulary selection and assume the coursebook is the syllabus and that it has adequately taught all the knowledge necessary for productive use by the end of the unit. This lack of long-term planning and careful systematic development of partial word knowledge in course design leads many learners to consider themselves bad at learning vocabulary and may give up easily, or avoid conscious word learning.
  • Most coursebooks emphasize single words at the form/meaning level only and neglect multi-word units and common words assumed to be known. Many teachers favor intensive language instruction while neglecting fluency development, especially for reading and listening.
  • Teachers who teach too many similar words at one time may not only confuse learners who get new words mixed up, but also overload the learners’ memory leading to ‘vocabulary graveyards.’
  • For many teachers, word teaching only means teaching a definition and spelling or pronunciation, not the deeper aspects of word learning.
  • Teachers leave vocabulary learning to learners and rarely teach systematic and principled vocabulary learning strategies and techniques, dictionary skills or how to keep effective vocabulary notebooks.
  • Vocabulary learning goals are rarely set.

What does all this imply for language teaching and learning?

Firstly, teachers should carefully select words to teach, focusing on the most frequent and useful words as they carry the most meaning senses. Similarly, those which will be relatively easy to learn, such as cognates and high frequency words, should be introduced early to build a start-up vocabulary base. An early emphasis on vocabulary growth within language teaching will help kickstart their learning (Meara, 1995).

Secondly, the most important vocabulary to focus on is yesterday’s vocabulary. Because we can all but guarantee that most words we teach will soon be lost to the Forgetting Curve, it is essential that the new words are repeated not only soon after the initial learning, but repeated at spaced intervals many times and in many contexts thereafter to cement them in memory. As our coursebooks do not seem to consciously recycle important vocabulary, the 5-16 times needed for fast recognition, teachers have to ensure there is enough exposure. One easy way to achieve both these goals, and one that takes little classroom time, is to require learners to read graded readers (or other texts not dense with new words) out of class, or ask them to listen to long simplified recordings at their fluent listening and reading level. This will expose the learners to massive amounts of vocabulary from which they can discover new collocations, build a sense of how words and grammar interact, and improve their reading and listening fluency in an enjoyable way (Nation and Waring, 2020).

Thirdly, learners should not be faced with material that is too difficult because they will not be able to guess successfully from context and will struggle to integrate new knowledge. Reading and listening material that is a little easy is beneficial for language learning as it provides the conditions for building reading speed, fluency and lexical access speed.

Fourthly, the ultimate aim of teaching is to make learners independent. This can be achieved by providing systematic instruction in how to use their dictionaries well, and how to learn vocabulary effectively. For example, rather than teach multi-word units individually, we need to train learners how to notice them in their input and guess what they mean, as well as learning how to record words well, and how to sequence their learning to fight the Forgetting Curve. At first, only very high frequency vocabulary items with a wide range of meanings and coverage, highly frequent lexical chunks and faux amis need intentional learning time. Most collocations, phrases and multi-word units should be picked up through massive exposure to comprehensible texts. 25% of their learning time should each be spent on intentional learning, building fluency, meaning focused input and meaning focused output (Nation, 2013).

Lastly, vocabulary exercises should focus on deepening and internalizing the knowledge of words, and should not just be tests. They should promote high quality mental processing by focusing beyond the ‘form-meaning’ level of single words preferred.. Learners should learn how to deal with collocations and multi-word units, and develop word attack strategies to build derivational knowledge in interesting and varied ways to network all aspects of word’s form, meaning and use, receptively and productively. The type of practice in these activities should allow the learners to notice new lexical items, build up partial word knowledge, while forcing them to internalize them. Learning should avoid too many simple gap-fill and matching exercises that manipulate only meaning and/or form which only develop relatively shallow mental processing.

Readers are encouraged to follow up this brief article by reading Nation (2013) and Schmitt and Schmitt (2020).


Nation, P. 2013. Learning vocabulary in another language (second edition). Cambridge University Press.

Nation, P. and R. Waring. 2020. Teaching extensive reading in another language. Routledge.

Meara P. 1995. The importance of an early emphasis in L2 vocabulary. The Language Teacher 19, (2): 8-10.

Pimsleur, P. 1967. A memory schedule. Modern Language Journal. 51 (2): 73-75.

Schmitt, N. and D. Schmitt. 2020. Vocabulary in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sun, Y. and T.N.Y. Dang, 2020. Vocabulary in high-school EFL textbooks: Texts and learner knowledge. System, (93) October.

Rob Waring is professor at Notre Dame Seishin University in Okayama, Japan. He is a well-respected expert in extensive reading and vocabulary and recently published Teaching Extensive Reading in Another Language with Paul Nation.


Ethan M. Lynn, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona

For several decades, repeated reading (RR) has been employed as a means to promote reading fluency in L1 settings, which was later adapted to ESL/EFL contexts. In short, RR is defined as “rereading a short, meaningful passage several times until a satisfactory level of fluency is reached” (Samuels, 1979, p. 404) and is based on LaBerge and Samuel’s (1974) automaticity theory: as lower-level reading processes (e.g., word-level decoding, lexical retrieval, and sentence parsing) become more rapid and automatic, comprehension also improves because cognitive resources are freed up to focus on comprehension. In short, it should follow that as readers engage in RR, their reading rate should increase as a direct result of increased decoding speed. In this article, I report on two studies in which I participated. In these studies colleagues and I examined two elements of a RR program in an ESL setting: (1) intensity, or the number of readings per session and (2) the duration of treatment.

In the first study (Lynn, forthcoming), I compared changes in reading rates between two treatment groups of adult ESL students at the intermediate level. Both groups engaged in two RR sessions per week with one group engaging in five readings per session while the other group engaged in three readings per session. Reading rate was assessed at five points during the semester: pre-test, three mid-tests, and a post-test. Background knowledge was also controlled for as it has been shown to affect reading behavior (Shin, Dronjic, & Park, 2019). Unfortunately, gains in reading rate were not realized during the course of the treatment, nor were there any differences between the two treatment groups. A qualitative assessment indicated that the RR treatment of three readings was better received than the treatment of five readings, which was viewed as more cumbersome. It was reasoned that the lack of gains could be attributed in part to lack of student motivation, which could have been precipitated by irrelevant and uninteresting texts.

In the second study, colleagues and I compared changes in reading behavior across three treatment groups of intermediate-level adult ESL students. Each group engaged in two RR sessions per week with one group reading the text three times per session, another group reading the text two times per session, and a final group reading the text one time per session. Eye-tracking technology was used to assess reading behaviors at three testing points: pre, mid, and post. The results indicated that there were no differences across treatment groups, but there were differences across time points: Students had large gains in reading rate from pre-test to mid-test. Other eye-tracking measures confirmed this pattern of increase from pre-test to mid-test. Based on reading rate gains and eye-tracking data, it appears that RR not only increases decoding speed, but it may be even more effective at helping students with lexical retrieval and integration of what they decode.

What does this mean for teachers and their students? From the results of these studies, perhaps less is more. Engaging in fewer readings, even only one reading per session, may be more efficient than reading multiple times per session. Reading a passage only one time would allow students to realize maximal gains while preserving valuable instruction time for other purposes. Teachers could verify this claim for themselves by experimenting with their own students and specific learning context. To apply RR in your classroom, I would recommend Lynn’s (2018) guide if you want to do multiple readings or Millett’s (2008) framework for single readings.

Here is a website to access passages specifically designed for reading fluency: As noted earlier, though, while the texts found on the link are linguistically sound (they are controlled for length, vocabulary, and grammar), they may not be relevant to students, which could result in decreased motivation and engagement. Sonia Millett also recorded a video tutorial showing teachers how to implement a reading fluency program to their classroom using her materials:

Finally, I recommend three resources, which contain additional ideas for implementing reading fluency in the classroom: Anderson (1999), Cohen (2011), and Lynn (2020). If anyone has issues understanding or accessing those resources, please feel free to send me an email.


LaBerge, D., & Samuels, S. J. (1974). Toward a theory of automatic information processing in reading. Cognitive Psychology, 6, 293–323.

Lynn, E. M. (2018). Developing reading fluency by combining timed reading and repeated reading. English Teaching Forum, 56(3), 28-31.

Millett, S. (2008). A daily fluency programme: The key to using what you know. Modern English Teacher, 17, 21–28.

Samuels, S. J. (1979). The method of repeated readings. The Reading Teacher, 32(4), 403-408.

Shin, J., Dronjic, V., & Park, B. (2019). The interplay between working memory and background knowledge in L2 reading comprehension. TESOL Quarterly, 53(2), 320-347.

Ethan Lynn is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Linguistics at Northern Arizona University. His current research focuses on (1) evaluating the vocabulary and grammar of reading materials designed for ELLs through corpus methods and (2) ESL reading instruction with an emphasis on reading fluency.



Janice Thornton Cate, NBCT Jackson, Mississippi

Do you want your students to read for themselves, for enjoyment, for the future? Do you have students who are able to read but hate to read? Do you want to learn how to change yourself and your students? If so, then this book is for you.

Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst have each written books using their experience and research in reading. Together they have written several books on reading instruction including Disrupting Thinking. I heard them speak at a literacy conference in 2019 and was thrilled to find some answers to my questions about how to motivate and engage readers at their session and in this book.

The book starts with two questions about disruption: 1)What needs to change? 2)What assumptions make that change hard? The answers are found in the three parts of the book. There are fifteen chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. The chapters are easy to read and include discussion questions. The questions guide thoughtful discussions by professional learning groups or book clubs. Additional videos and printable resources are available on the Scholastic website.

There are many things I think teachers of English Learners can use after reading this book even though it was not written specifically for English Learners. Upper elementary, middle school, high school, and even college teachers will find the main points useful for guiding all levels of readers in reading engagement. The authors have demonstrated their technique with students from first grade to college. They have spent time with the research and developed those foundations into a framework for changing how we read.

As a middle and high school ESL teacher I like their framework of Book, Head, Heart for all types of reading. I use it myself when I read but had not thought about it before reading this book. The questions associated with the framework focus the reader on how the text affects them personally. How. It. Affects. Them. Not some random questions about obscure details but how this book, poem, or article affects them, the readers. That is definitely empowering.

The main message to me from Disrupting Thinking is how as a teacher I can engage my students in connecting to reading that will change them and their world. For some, including me, that is a scary idea. In the US, I think our students need to learn how to change their world. There are so many benefits to engaging and empowering students instead of turning them off from learning or making them dread reading.

If you teach reading or include reading in your coursework try these questions with your students. BOOK questions: 1)What’s this about? 2)Who’s telling the story? 3)What does the author want me to know? HEAD questions: 1)What surprised me? 2)What does the author think I already know? What changed, challenged or confirmed my thinking? 4)What did I notice? HEART questions: 1)What did I learn about me? 2)How will this help me to be better?

I used just one question, “What surprised you?”, with some college students. That question led to great discussions about the text we were reading and let me know a lot about what my students thought.

If you want to know more about the whole process and the research that resulted in these questions, read Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Beers and Probst.


Beers, Kykene, & Probst, Robert E. 2017. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters. New York, NY. Scholastic.

Janice Thornton Cate is a National Board Certified Teacher, past president of AMTESOL and past chair of EEIS with over 25 years of experience teaching ESL in public schools in Mississippi. Most recently she has worked as an adjunct instructor at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi.



Doreen Ewert, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California Christy Williams, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida

Dear Colleagues, we have put together a list of newly published articles from 2019 to this month that discuss various reading and vocabulary theories and strategies. The articles come from writers around the world, and the selected research encompases various levels of education as well as both an EFL and ESL perspective. We sincerely hope that our including the name of the peer reviewed article and its doi will inspire you to further investigate, explore, and try some of the new ideas presented.


“Narrow reading, vocabulary load and collocations in context: Exploring lexical repetition in concordances from a pedagogical perspective” (2021) doi:

“Reading comprehension strategies of the EFAL Learners in the FET Phase: Teacher perspectives” (2020) doi:

“Extensive reading and viewing as input for academic vocabulary: A large-scale vocabulary profile coverage study of students’ reading and writing across multiple secondary school subjects” (2020) doi:

“Incidental learning of a grammatical feature from reading by Japanese learners of English as a foreign language” (2020) doi:


“Effects of content support on integrated reading-writing task performance and incidental vocabulary learning” (2020) doi:

“Learning vocabulary through reading, listening, and viewing Which mode of input is most effective?” (2020) doi:

“The relationship between vocabulary and viewing comprehension” (2020) doi:

“Toward the establishment of a data‐driven learning model: Role of learner factors in corpus‐based second language vocabulary learning” (2020) doi:



RVIS Steering Committee, TESOL, Global

“The Reading and Vocabulary Interest Section (RV-IS) informs teachers, materials writers, curriculum designers, test developers as well as those who set educational policy for language programs about recent advances in our understanding of the process of learning to read, acquiring vocabulary and the process of reading itself. RV-IS aims to promote research in these areas as well as action plans for promoting better reading and vocabulary practices among stakeholders. The Interest Section is not just a forum where TESOL members can share their expertise and insights internally; it also strives to reach beyond the current TESOL membership, forming liaisons with other associations and governmental agencies concerned with the promotion of reading, vocabulary and literacy. We aim to leverage our shared expertise to provide professional development opportunities, to advocate for sound guidelines, and to promote excellence in reading, vocabulary and literacy education worldwide.”


Call for Submissions:

Read-Voc Newsletter is soliciting articles on reading and/or vocabulary theory, research, and pedagogy in all ESL/EFL settings, and across age/grade levels, including underrepresented contexts, such as two-year programs, community programs, refugees, and remote learning, etc. Submissions with hyperlinks are encouraged.

Pedagogical tips and/or resource suggestions based on intersection hangouts and discussion board postings are also encouraged. Current topics of discussion include

  • Engaging multi level readers with electronic resources
  • Promoting reading skills/strategies in K-12 settings
  • Addressing issues of integrity in online teaching
  • Addressing Reading and Vocabulary from an EFL perspective

How to Submit

If you would like to submit to the Read-Voc Newsletter please read the submission guidelines.

Please send your submissions and questions to the Read-Voc Newsletter Editors: Doreen Ewert and Christy Williams


2nd Edition of newsletter deadline: June 21, 2021
Pre-Convention Issue
Mid-Year Issue