Importance of Vocabulary Knowledge

Shift 6 and Academic Vocabulary

How important is it?

  • Farley and Elmore (1992) found that vocabulary knowledge was a stronger predictor of reading comprehension than cognitive ability (Fisher & Frey, 62)
  • "'knowing a word' involves more than definition; it also means understanding its use in relation to the context, its permutations, and the ability to make accurate predictions about the meaning based on these really know a word, you must understand its context and morphology and hypothesize its meaning based on these elements." (Fisher & Frey, 63)

Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary

  • "Tier 1: Words acquired through every day speech, usually learned in the early grades
  • Tier 2: Academic words that appear across all types of text. These are often precise words that are used by the author in place of common words. (i.e. gallop instead of run). They change meaning with use.
  • Tier 3: Domain specific words that are specifically tied to content. (i.e. Constitution, lava) These are typically the types of vocabulary words that are included in glossaries, highlighted in textbooks and address by teachers. They are considered difficult words important to understanding content." (Common Core Connections: Unpacking Academic Vocabulary)

The tiers allow us to recognize the type of vocabulary and thus to focus on the second tier in order to reinforce words that can be used across the curriculum in students' academic lives.

Effective Vocabulary Instruction

Students must:
  • "be actively involved in word learning
  • make personal connections
  • be immersed in vocabulary
  • consolidate meaning through multiple information source" (Fisher & Frey 64)

In addition, by focusing on Tier II words students learn vocabulary that is "flexible and transportable across curricular disciplines." (Fisher & Frey 64-65).

New Strategies for Implementation

In my classroom, I will begin implementing Tier II words through word walls and the use of instagrok. I already have a word wall for recurring content-specific words, such as types of figurative language, etc. The text says it is "essential to 'do' a word wall, not merely display one...English teachers use the word wall through brief daily instruction around a particular set of words," meaning it needs to be incorporated into the lesson and deal with words found in the text currently being worked in ( Fisher & Frey 66). I plan to create a word wall for my next novel that will deal with terms students will need to know for background and comprehension. I will leave it up for the duration of the novel study for reference during activities and reading. I also plan to incorporate Instagrok because it looks like a great tool to increase engagement. One of the examples given for the word wall is "dust bowl." When I type that in to instagrok it gives me an interactive word web with videos, related words, images, key facts, and tons of other information. This tool would be amazing for letting students explore a key term as pre-teaching to a unit involving something they have no personal experience with. I am actually very excited to incorporate this program in my lessons. I am also planning to incorporate VocabGrabber. Anything that makes my job easier is sure to make get bookmarked on my computer, and this one has potential. In my experimentation I put in the same text I used for the wordle, and it pulled tier and word out as primary words. It gave me a breakdown of tier with related words, definitions, and examples from the text. I think this tool could be very useful in preparing a unit with an integrated vocabulary lesson.

Link for dust bowl instagrok:


Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (n.d.). Robust Vocabulary Learning. In Improving Adolescent Literacy (pp. 61-75). Pearson Education.

Oxnevad, S. (n.d.). Common Core Connections: Unpacking Academic Vocabulary. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from