What Every Teacher Should Know About Teaching Vocabulary

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Research and finest practices for instructing vocabulary within the elementary classroom.

I’m again this week linking up with #TeacherMother for her Building Back to School sequence.  This week we’re speaking about language instruments.  I’ve executed some digging to see what analysis tells us about instructing vocabulary.  Here’s what I discovered:


What Every Teacher Should Know About Teaching Vocabulary

A Strong Vocabulary Is a Big Deal

We can all surmise robust vocabulary is essential for college students.  Students have a greater likelihood of decoding phrases and understanding textual content if they’ll draw from a big vocabulary.  Many analysis research point out that vocabulary is an correct indicator of success at school (Elley, 1988).


Indirect vs. Direct Vocabulary Acquisition

I used to be stunned to study that college students purchase most vocabulary not directly (National Institute, 2000).  That is, by way of conversations with others, by listening to adults read aloud, and thru their very own impartial studying.  Isn’t it good to hear that the read aloud you utilize to get everyone simmered down after recess can be pumping up your college students’ vocabularies?

Some phrases want to be taught straight resembling phrases that characterize tough ideas which aren’t a part of college students’ experiences.  Direct vocabulary instruction includes instructing particular phrases but additionally instructing phrase studying methods (extra on that, later).


Choosing Words

Obviously, we don’t have time to teach college students each tough phrase they’re going to encounter.  So how can we select phrases to teach?  Isabel Beck (2002) splits phrases into three tiers.  Tier 1 phrases are easy and acquainted to college students (phrases like door, home, guide).  These phrases not often require targeted instruction.  Tier 2 phrases happen steadily and throughout quite a lot of domains.  They are thought-about mature, tutorial language (phrases like coincidence, reluctant, evaluation).  Beck believes academics ought to spend probably the most time instructing tier 2 phrases.  Tier three phrases are not often used and are restricted to particular fields of examine (phrases like isotope, Reconstruction, Buddhism).


Elements of a Good Vocabulary Instruction Program

Alright, so what can we really need to be doing to construct college students’ vocabulary?  Michael Graves (2000) identifies 4 parts of fine vocabulary instruction:

  1. Independent studying: Students ought to read broadly and extensively to construct their vocabularies.  Independent studying is a good go-to exercise for when college students end their work or whereas the trainer is working with a small group (plus it’s quiet and doesn’t make a multitude!).
  2. Instruction in particular phrases: The aim right here is to help college students’ comprehension of a selected textual content.  Going by way of an inventory of phrases that aren’t related to an idea or a textual content the category is learning isn’t useful.
  3. Word studying methods:  These embrace recognizing and utilizing prefixes, suffixes, and root phrases.
  4. Word consciousness:   This is the power to mirror upon and manipulate phrases.  It includes realizing how phrase elements and phrase order have an effect on which means.  It additionally contains an understanding of synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, and figurative language.

Honestly, I had no concept why instructing opposites was even on the requirements.  Now I get it: college students have a stronger understanding of a phrase’s which means in the event that they know that phrase’s reverse (or antonym).


synonyms and antonyms anchor chart, synonym cinnamon bears, and antonym ants

Synonym cinnamon bears and antonym ants anchor chart


root words anchor chart, vocabulary instruction

Root phrases anchor chart from Book Units Teacher


Degrees of Knowing Words

It just isn’t the case that college students both know or have no idea phrases. Rather, they know phrases to various levels. If a phrase is unknown, they’ve by no means seen or heard of it earlier than. If they’ve seen or heard of it however don’t know precisely what it means they’re acquainted with the phrase.  If they’re very accustomed to a phrase and might use it precisely then they’ve an established understanding.


Word Learning Strategies

What about all the phrases that you’ll by no means have time to teach your college students?  How will they navigate them?  That’s the place phrase studying methods come into play.  Looking on the record of phrase studying methods was an “ah-ha!” second for me.  Finally, I understood why instructing requirements embrace nitty gritty stuff like separating affixes and root phrases.  It all leads to college students having the ability to pick phrase elements and a minimum of make a very good guess at a phrase’s which means.

These are phrase studying methods you need to be instructing your college students

  1. Dictionary expertise – Looking phrases up is rather a lot simpler as of late with digital dictionaries however it’s nonetheless essential for college students to see how a number of meanings and elements of speech are recognized within the dictionary (digital or in any other case).
  2. Using Word Parts – This contains prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots and realizing how they make up the which means of a phrase
  3. Context Clues – This one is difficult.  Context clues aren’t at all times dependable however college students ought to have this technique of their again pocket as a result of it steadily is useful.


using context clues to understand new vocabulary, an anchor chart

Here is a wonderful anchor chart about utilizing context clues from Crafting Connections


Repeated Exposure

Focusing on a brand new phrase for a day or perhaps a week most likely isn’t going to be sufficient.  Students want prolonged instruction with a number of exposures to a brand new phrase throughout quite a lot of contexts.  One means to do that is to have a vocabulary phrase wall that you simply refer again to steadily.



vocabulary word wall

Vocabulary Word Wall, read extra at Resources With Altitude

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What Every Teacher Should Know About Teaching Vocabulary


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Elley, Warwick B. (1988). New Vocabulary: How Do Children Learn New Words? Research Information for Teachers, 1, 2-5

Graves, M.F. 2000. A vocabulary program to complement and bolster a middle-grade comprehension program. In B.M. Taylor, M.F. Graves, and P. Van Den Broek (eds.), Reading for which means: Fostering comprehension within the center grades. Mew York: Teachers College Press.

National Institute for Literacy. (2000). Put Reading First. Jessup, MD: EdPubs.


Norton the Bookworm clip artwork from Sarah Pecorino Illustration


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Hannah Braun

Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former trainer with eight years of expertise within the classroom and a grasp’s diploma in early childhood schooling. She designs partaking, organized classroom resources for 1st-Third grade academics.

Author: Hannah Braun

Hannah Braun is a former trainer with eight years of expertise within the classroom and a grasp’s diploma in early childhood schooling. She designs partaking, organized classroom resources for 1st-Third grade academics.