Are words really that important?

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"Acquisition of any language, including academic English, requires that users speak, listen, read, and write using the vocabulary of the discipline."
(Fisher & Frey, 2011, p. 64)

Tier Words

Tier 1: Tier 1 words are words that are typically used in everyday vocabulary, and most children are familiar with the because they are so common. Children learn these words simply by hearing them daily. Ex: big, small

Tier 2:
Tier 2 words are words that are considered "high-frequency." These words are used across different content areas, and occur frequently. Ex: justify, explain

Tier 3:
Tier 3 words are words that are considered "low-frequency." These words are typically used within particular content areas directed towards specific domains. Most students are not familiar with these words as these words are taught. Ex. isotope, tectonic plates

(Tyson, 2013)

How to help struggling readers in general, and with vocabulary instruction?

Monitoring Students: As teachers frequently monitor their students they are given the opportunity to see what the students strengths and weaknesses are within their reading abilities and vocabulary understanding. Monitoring students allows the teacher to provide the support each individual student needs, and keeps them from falling behind.

Targeted and Intensive/Directed Support: Once struggling readers fall behind, targeted support can be given to the student by the teacher. Targeted support allows the struggling readers to have a specific focal point to assist with learning, that will result in success. A source of intensive/directed support given by the teacher ceases the learning gap.

Meaningful Connections: In order for students to become interested in learning, meaningful connections between the content and the student must be made. When meaningful connections are made, students become self-motivated to learn new material.

(Tankersley, 2005)

Content-Area Vocabulary

Technical Vocabulary:
  • Words that are typically used in only one specific content.
  • Most students aren't able to make connections between these words and previously learned words, therefore these words are more difficult to teach.

(Fisher & Frey, 2016)

Strategies for Teaching Academic Vocabulary

  • Encourage your students to read diverse texts! Different genres offer a variety of academic language that allow students to become familiar with through thinking and discussing.
  • Implement the use of summary frames! A summary frame is a form of sentence structure that aids and guides students with summarizing passages. Ex: _______________ happened because ______________.
  • Provide assistance with converting academic language to social language! Explaining to students when and how to use academic language v.s. social language allows them to interpret language used through different texts.
  • Execute the use of scripts when completing academic routines! Scripts are used as a sources of scaffolding. Offering scripts to students helps them get started. Ex: The main idea of this paragraph is ___________________.
  • Vigorously establish academic vocabulary! Emphasize important vocabulary words when they are first being introduced. This makes the learning experience memorable, and the students are more likely to remember what they learned later.
  • Provide assistance with establishing similarities and differences through the use of some source of structure! Comparing and contrasting words through some source of graphic (venn diagram) allows the students to see similarities and differences among vocabulary words.
  • Assist students with the use of transition words through a handout! Teaching transition words or phrases helps students learn how to write formally through academic writing.
  • Instruct students on key words needed for understanding prompts on standardized tests! Instruction on common key academic words allows students to understand the meanings, and how to use them prior to test time.

(Finley, 2014)

How has this vocabulary module influenced me as a READ concentration?

There are several useful instructional activities I have discovered throughout this vocabulary module. As a READ concentration, my content-area focus is English Language Arts, which is ultimately intertwined with ALL subjects.

In the text, Improving Adolescent Literacy by Fisher and Frey, there are several suggestions given on how to include vocabulary instruction in ELA. One specific vocabulary strategy that I recognized is the implementation of word walls. A word wall is a way to display vocabulary words/phrases alphabetically upon a classroom wall. Words are added throughout the year and their is brief instruction on these vocabulary words/phrases when new ones are added. Through word walls, students have easy access to visualize them each day whenever needed, and the word locations should never move (Fisher & Frey, 2016).

Word walls are definitely something that I am interested in incorporating in my content-area. This strategy makes great use of time, and is valuable to students as they will have constant access to the words throughout the year.

Harmon and Wood shared an awesome vocabulary instruction activity in their article Content-Area Vocabulary: A Critical Key to Conceptual Learning, P.E.A.R. (preparation, explanation, application, and reinforcement). Here are the steps for P.E.A.R.:
  • Preparation- Through this step, the teacher carefully selects a limited number of vocabulary words that are needed to be taught, and assesses what students already know about these new words. Students can be given a chart with a list of the new vocabulary words, along with headings in each column that question what the student knows about each new word.
  • Explanation- Through this step, the teacher explains the meanings of the new vocabulary words to the students in "student-friendly" terms. This step allows the students to gain a clear understanding of the new vocabulary.
  • Application- Through this step, the students apply the knowledge they gained of the new vocabulary words through a meaningful activity. Some suggested application activities are: answering to meaningful-use prompts, statement completions, word associations, or answering to meaningful questions. Copying down definitions from dictionaries is not a meaningful activity, and only allows students to memorize word meanings leaving them to not understand the concept.
  • Reinforcement- Through this step, teachers are reinforcing the newly learned vocabulary words through review. Suggested ways to review are through writing activities, specifically through the use of a "cubing activity." A cubing activity is when a piece of paper (or notecard) is sectioned off into 2 columns with 3 rows. In each cube the students examine the word in a different way (describing, comparing/contrasting, associating, analyzing, applying, and arguing) (Harmon & Wood, 2016).

P.E.A.R. is a specific strategy that I am looking forward to using in my content-area. This vocabulary instructional activity can easily be embedded within ELA lessons. The instructional activities are not only engaging, but meaningful as well.


Finley, T. (2014, January 02). 8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-strategies-teaching-academic-language-todd-finley

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2011). Academic Language in the Secondary Classroom. Principal Leadership, 64. Retrieved February 15, 2016.

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2016). Improving adolescent literacy: Content area strategies at work (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Harmon, J., & Wood, K. (2016). Content-Area Vocabulary: A Critical Key to Conceptual Learning. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://ohiorc.org/adlit/inperspective/issue/2008-10/Article/feature.aspx

Tankersley, K. (2005). The Struggling Reader. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104428/chapters/The-Struggling-Reader.aspx

Tyson, K. (2013). No Tears for Tiers: Common Core Tiered Vocabulary Made Simple l Dr. Kimberly's Literacy Blog. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://www.learningunlimitedllc.com/2013/05/tiered-vocabulary/