Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Best Practices For Vocabulary Instruction

Yesterday I talked about using vocabulary tiers to select words for instruction. As I continue to review the research on effective vocabulary instruction, I am reflecting on my own practices as an intervention teacher.

I am hoping that the tips and suggestions that I have found as I refresh my memory are helpful to you!

What are the best practices for vocabulary instruction for young children?
  • The best sources of vocabulary are books that teachers read aloud rather than those that children read themselves. Why?  I am thinking that it is because the teacher can instruct and help students to interact with unfamiliar words in real-time.  However, that is not to say that incidental vocabulary learning is not important. Quite the opposite.  Children do learn many new words from their independent reading by using context and picture clues to make meaning.
  •  Some researchers suggest that teachers instruct vocabulary after the story has been read.  Why?  For one, the teacher can briefly explain the word during the read-aloud at the point where it is needed.  Second, the context of the story provides a rich example of the word's use and meaning.
  • Students need twelve (12) encounters with a word to fully comprehend and to be able to apply knowledge.
  • There should be some direct teaching of vocabulary during a read-aloud.
  • Vocabulary discussion should be interactive for students.  Small groups are optimal so that all students can contribute.
  • Rereading of the texts can maximize learning and offer multiple exposures to the target vocabulary.
  • The National Reading Panel (2000) recommends teaching vocabulary directly and indirectly and to use multiple methods of instruction.
  • Create a learning environment that fosters word consciousness and incidental learning.
  • Use read-aloud books to encourage wide reading, model an interest in learning new words, use word play, and technology.

Of course, this is just an overview and not a definitive list.  It is just a good reminder for me as I get ready to start a new school year and think about how I want to change my vocabulary instruction.  Each week, my students have vocabulary words for their readings in our Treasures series.  My job is to reinforce the vocabulary and offer multiple attempts for working with the words.

 My students enjoy playing vocabulary charades.  A students draws a word card out of a box and acts out the word without speaking.  The rest of the group has to infer/guess what the word is.  They have a blast with this game!

 I am going to work on creating a new vocabulary organizer for students to use as we explore words and work with them in a variety of ways.  And yes, I will share that with you when it is finished!

 Donavan's Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross is a wonderful chapter book to read aloud to first graders (and maybe even kindergartners!) to get them excited about words and to see just how important words are.  Click on the pic below to check out the book on Amazon.  This is a super book and you and your class can make your own word jar!

 Donavan's Word Jar (Trophy Chapter Book)

Lastly, using a Word Wizard chart or bulletin board can really excite students to search for their vocabulary words outside of class.  Every time they see or hear a word used in a book, newspaper, on TV, at home, at the store, at the movies, they complete a word wizard card and bring in to share with the classThey can complete a word wizard card like this to post on a bulletin board or display:

Graphics by www.scrappindoodles.com

Students write the vocabulary word on the card and then write or draw where they saw or heard the word used.  For instance, they may draw their parents at the dinner table if they heard one of them use the word.  They bring the word card to school and get to share where they heard/saw the word.  Then, they post it on the bulletin board,chart/display.  Some teachers give "word wizard" points and reward those with the highest amount for the week.  Great for word consciousness!

I also made this mini-poster to be used as a bulletin board/chart header.  Click here to grab your copy and a copy of the word cards.

Graphics by www.scrappindoodles.com

Ok, I'm off to work on my new vocabulary graphic organizer! 


"Choosing Words to Teach" from  Bringing Words to Life:  Robust Vocabulary Instruction. Isabel Beck, McKeown, and Kucan.  2002.

Promoting Vocabulary Development:  Components of Effective Vocabulary Instruction.  Texas Reading Initiative.  2002 

Integrated Vocabulary Instruction:  Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners in Grades K-5.  Camille L.Z. Blachowicz, Peter J. Fisher, and Susan Watts-Taffe.  2005


  1. FYI When I click on the picture there is a problem with google docs. Is anyone else having trouble?

    1. Lori- Thank you So much for letting me know there was a problem! I can't get the link to work with Google Docs.I listed them in my TPT store. Don't click the pic, click where it says "here". So sorry about the inconvenience! Lauren


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