Use robust vocabulary instruction to help students develop a rich and functional vocabulary.
Effective vocabulary instruction is robust. It requires both breadth and depth. Robust vocabulary instruction includes two important components: (a) what we teach is identified and designed and (b) how we teach and deliver instruction is clearly-specified. These critical components of classroom vocabulary instruction design and delivery are explained below:
What we teach: Design
- Select and teach the meaning of essential, unknown vocabulary words.
- Use student-friendly explanations.
How we teach: Delivery
- Provide opportunities to encounter and learn words from context.
- Teach the meanings of specific words.
- Practice and judiciously review words as needed.
- Promote word consciousness and appreciation.
Provide daily, explicit vocabulary instruction for ELs.
In general,ELs lack depth and breadth of vocabulary knowledge, a lack that must be addressed as early as possible to help these students succeed in school. Use the resources provided here to learn how to support EL vocabulary development.
This PowerPoint, designed for teachers of ELs and students with language deficiencies, provides training in the area of vocabulary development and oral language development. The presentation focuses on providing teachers with strategies, both within and outside their core reading program, for fully meeting the needs of these students.
Vocabulary Development & Oral Language
This PowerPoint includes tips on vocabulary instruction techniques for ELs.
Language and Vocabulary Development Chart
This document provides a vocabulary chart to help plan language and vocabulary development for ELs.
This document explains the different types of vocabulary, and details the results and implications of research on vocabulary instruction.
Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades
This IES Practice Guide gives an overview of the needs of ELs and provides 5 recommendations to help schools ensure they are meeting those needs. Recommendation 3 is particularly relevant: Provide extensive and varied vocabulary instruction.
Provide Extensive and Varied Vocabulary Instruction
This PowerPoint presentation gives an overview of Recommendation 3 from the IES Practice Guide, “Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades.” Use this presentation in conjunction with the guide to learn how to follow the proposed recommendations.
Cross-Linguistic Transfer of Reading Skills for Children Learning to Read in English and Spanish
Explore the following PowerPoint to see which reading skills transfer well from Spanish to English and which do not.
Select and teach the meaning of essential, unknown vocabulary words (Instructional Design)
Determining the number of words to teach and which words to teach are based on student prior knowledge and what students already know about words. So:
- Select words that are functional and essential to the meaning of the passage.
- Select a limited number of words for robust, explicit vocabulary instruction.
Briefly tell students the meaning of other words that are needed for comprehension.
Use student-friendly explanations. (Instructional Design)
Often, dictionary definitions are not helpful to students because they provide weak differentiations, use vague language, and give multiple pieces of information without guidance on how to integrate the information meaningfully. So:
- Characterize the word and how it is typically used.
Explain the meaning in everyday language.
Provide opportunities to encounter and learn words from context. (Instructional Delivery)
The best way to foster vocabulary growth is to promote wide reading.
- Teach students how to read so that they can go on to read words and comprehend text independently.
- Optimize students’ exposure to print.
- Use read alouds to provide opportunities for students to encounter rich, interesting, and varied vocabulary.
Use read alouds with embedded instruction to help students learn words from context.
Teach the meanings of specific words. (Instructional Delivery)
Although much vocabulary is learned indirectly through exposure to print, some vocabulary must be taught directly, with the use of a systematic instructional routine. So:
- Introduce the word.
- Present a student-friendly explanation.
- Illustrate the word with examples.
- Check students’ understanding.
Practice and judiciously review words (Instructional Delivery)
Learning vocabulary requires practice, review, and deep processing. Review must be: sufficient to enable a student to know and use vocabulary without hesitation; distributed over time; cumulative, with vocabulary integrated into more complex tasks; and varied, so that vocabulary use can be applied to multiple contexts and used to illustrate a wide application of student understanding. *Use formats and graphic organizers that promote deep processing (e.g., sentence substitution formats, semantic mapping, Four-Square charts)
Promote word consciousness and appreciation. (Instructional Delivery)
When word consciousness is developed, students have an understanding and interest in words, how words are used, and the importance of words in learning and communicating.
- Use thought-provoking, playful, and interactive word play formats with oral language.
Have fun with words!
Professional Development Presentation
Apply the Concepts
1. Selecting Words for Vocabulary Instruction
Use the "Tier Word Selection Framework" by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002) to select words for vocabulary instruction. Identify three to five Tier 2 words that you would select for direct vocabulary instruction (See Part 1-Slide #14). When completing this practice activity, you will have two words lists. One word list will include three to five words from the text Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. Remember, Enemy Pie will be used as a teacher read aloud with second grade students. You’ll also have a second word list for the text Honk! Honk! will be used as a read aloud text with first grade students.
2. Knowing A Word
Think about your own word knowledge. How well do you know words listed below? Can you explain and use the word fully? Or, do you only know something general about it, and maybe can only relate the word to a specific context or situation? Or, perhaps you know you’ve heard or seen the word before, but you don’t have a real sense of the word’s meaning. Finally, there’s a chance you may not know the word at all. As you try this activity, think about what it means to know a word and how the level of word knowledge might impact your selection of words to teach students.
3. Using Student-Friendly Explanations
For this activity, prepare some student-friendly explanations for K-1 vocabulary instruction. Write a student-friendly explanation for the words disgusting, fragile, gratitude, and loitering. Remember to use clear language and words that students will already know. The student-friendly explanation should characterize and explain the word’s meaning in everyday language. The student-friendly explanation should also convey how the word is typically used.
4. Anita Archer Vocabulary Instruction
Use the link below to view a video clip of vocabulary instruction. When you watch the video, use the vocabulary instructional routine checklist to determine if the teacher followed all of the steps in the vocabulary instructional routine. Does the teacher introduce the word, present a student-friendly explanation of the word, illustrate the word with examples, check students’ understanding, and review the words? Overall, does the instruction directly teach students the meanings of words?
1. What Reading Does for the Mind
“What Reading Does for the Mind” is an article, which discusses the impact of exposure to print. When you read, think about the cognitive consequences related to reading volume. Why are children’s books important sources of print when providing opportunities for vocabulary exposure and learning? How does reading volume contribute to student oral language and expressive vocabulary skills? How do you get reluctant readers to become avid readers?
2. Biemiller Article - Teaching vocabulary early, directly, and sequentially
The American Educator article by Andrew Biemiller entitled, “Teaching Vocabulary Early, Direct, and Sequential” discusses the importance of directly teaching the meaning of words. Use the article to think about the direct and sequential aspect of vocabulary instruction. For example, why is teacher-directed and curriculum-directed approaches to vocabulary instruction so important? How can vocabulary instruction be more instructionally powerful?
Resource Title: Biemiller, A. (2001, Spring). Teaching Vocabulary Early, Direct, and Sequential. American Educator/American Federation of Teachers.
3. Vocabulary Instructional Routine Template
This is a template that can be used as a generic instructional routine for directly teaching vocabulary. The instructional routine introduces words, explains words, discusses words, and checks student understanding of words. The vocabulary instructional routine can be used within the context of core reading instruction, small group reading instruction, and read-alouds. It can also be used for introducing reading vocabulary and speaking vocabulary.
4. Instructional Routine for Practicing Vocabulary
This planning template outlines six different activities for practicing and reviewing words. Activities include a yes/no/why format, completion activity, graphic organizer to depict the relationships between vocabulary words, word lines, sentence substitution format, and prompts for meaningful sentence writing.
5. Four-Square Chart
The use of a Four-Square vocabulary chart is a powerful way to promote deep word knowledge. In the Four-Square strategy, the target vocabulary word is listed in the word box and a student-friendly explanation or definition is written in the definition box. Examples and non-examples are also recorded to help accurately define the full range of the word’s meaning.
6. Vocabulary Log
A "Vocabulary Log" can be used by students to practice and judiciously review words. A compiled log of vocabulary words also serves as concrete documentation of student vocabulary learning. Look at how many words are entered in the "Vocabulary Log!"