How Do We Effectively Measure Knowledge of Word Meaning in the Primary Grades

Andrew Biemiller (2004) believes that the inability to readily assess vocabulary growth has been a major reason for lack of attention to vocabulary in the primary grades” (Diamond & Gutlohn, 2006, p. 31). Hence, we use running records and other informal reading inventories while assessing our students present levels in literacy, however these tools lack relevant information on a student’s knowledge of word meanings. This lead me on a Google search to see what types of informal vocabulary assessments are currently available for assessing elementary age students. This is how I discovered the Word Meaning Test (WMT).

There are various informal vocabulary assessments available. One of the most popular ones is the Vocabulary Knowledge Scale. The Vocabulary Knowledge Scale Assessment was found by empirical research to be highly effective. “On the basis of analysis and interpretation, it was understood that Vocabulary Knowledge Scale[s] [were] helpful in measuring [the] vocabulary of the students and showed improvement in their vocabulary” (Iqbal & Komal, 2017, p. 36).

Still, if the  Vocabulary Knowledge Scale is not available and one can not be made, then there is another tool that I happened to discover that is just as phenomenal, and it is the Megawords Assessment of Decoding and Encoding Skills. While assessing decoding and encoding, it also provides insight on the students knowledge of word structures (e.g., syllable division, prefixes/suffixes, advanced suffixes, and assimilated prefixes). I will provide more information on this assessment in a later post.

In this podcast episode, you will hear me administer the WMT to a Grade Four student. The result of this assessment answered many questions that I had about this student, and it provided me with direction on how I should pursue specific word instruction for her.


Diamond, L., & Gutlohn, L. (2009). Vocabulary handbook. Baltimore, Md: Brookes.

Iqbal, S., & Komal, S. (2017, July 05). ERIC. Analyzing the Effectiveness of Vocabulary Knowledge Scale on Learning and Enhancing Vocabulary through Extensive Reading. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from

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