The Vocbulary-Rich Classroom

Presentation by Abigail Buser || Section B || Feb 11, 2016


This text explores two different classrooms and how they incorporate vocabulary into their everyday routines. For the kindergarten classroom, the teacher used job terms they were familiar with at the beginning of the year, such as weather helper and line leader, but by February she had switched the kids over to meteorologist and class movement coordinator, among others. Even their vocabulary within their jobs increased, such as using words like "slightly brisk" instead of kind of cold.

The second classroom explored was a fourth grade room. This teacher started each morning off with a morning meeting. During this time, the teacher greeted each student. Slowly, the teacher started throwing in new words to the morning meetings. Eventually, the kids were using the new words in their own conversations as well as in their writing.

Main Points

Skip Explicit Instruction

Students do not need explicit vocabulary instruction all the time. In the case of the classrooms discussed in the article, the teachers simply substituted more sophisticated language and modeled their use. The kids were able to pick up on it and used the words in their own conversations and even in their own writing assignments.

Not Just For Older Kids

Students as young as Kindergarten can pick up on this. In the article, they observed a kindergarten classroom which started out with helpers with simple names, such as weather watcher, zookeeper and line leader. By February, the Kindergarten teacher had transformed those class helpers to meteorologist, animal nutrition specialist and class movement coordinator. In addition, they furthered their vocabulary skills in other aspects of the classroom.

Vocabulary is Very Important

Best predictor of:
  • Reading comprehension
  • Reading success
  • Overall success in school

In order for vocabulary to have an impact on these things, "vocabulary instruction should include multiple exposures to a word, teach both definitions and contexts, and engage students in deep processing" (Allen & Lane, 2010).

Don't Dumb it Down

One of the biggest barriers students face in schools is the simplistic way that teachers speak to them. Instead, teachers should use this opportunity to model new words for kids so they are exposed to a large amount of words.

Along with breadth, students also need depth. They need to see the word modeled, and also use context and experience have a full and complete understanding the word. The key to vocabulary instruction is both breadth and depth.

Three Tiers of Vocabulary Instruction

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  • Tier 1: Basic words that make up our language.
  • Tier 2: Academic words mostly used in school
  • Tier 3: Domain-specific words

Tier 1 does not have to be taught explicitly, and Tier 3 will be taught as you encounter them in text. A majority of the vocabulary instruction should be Tier 2 since those are words you will use in all aspects of school and life: conversations with adults and peers, writing, reading.

The How and Why

Because vocabulary is so crucial to academic success, as teachers we need to ensure that it all of our classrooms are vocabulary-rich environments. We need to make it our goal to expose and model sophisticated language to our students. The best ways to do this include points brought up in the article. Don't dumb down your thoughts and be sure to give kids both breadth and depth in vocabulary instruction.
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3 Questions

1. Would you use these strategies in your own classroom? Why or why not?
2. Have you ever had a teacher who did this? Or have you observed a vocabulary-rich classroom?
3. The article lists two examples of teachers with vocabulary-rich classroom. How are some other ways to integrate vocabulary into your classroom?

Additional Resources


Allen, S. A. & Lane, H. B. (2010). The Vocabulary-Rich Classroom: Modeling Sophisticated Word Use to Promote Word Consciousness and Vocabulary Growth. The Reading Teacher, 63(5).

Beck, I., Kucan, L., & McKeown, M. (2002). Taking Delight in Words: Using Oral Language to Build Young Children's Vocabularies. Reading Rockets. Retrieved from

Jones, S. (2011). Multisensory Vocabulary Instruction: Guidelines and Activities. Reading Rockets. Retrieved from

Kim, J. (Producer). (2011). College Talk. Available from