Vocabulary Rich Classrooms

What Does Strong Vocabulary Instruction Look Like

Selecting the right words to teach is a great start! Our students can learn 3000 to 4000 words every year, so we need to take advantage of that properly. We can designate how we teach vocabulary. There are three tiers we can utilize.
  1. Tier 1 are those basic words that most students already know before they come into our classrooms, like car, house, key, etc.
  2. Tier 2 are those words that are very important to understanding of what they read and are frequently used by those who are older in their lives, i.e., every day vernacular like stingy, mysterious, dawdle, etc. This is the sweet spot for teaching vocabulary. These are the words we should teach when introducing strong vocabulary.
  3. Tier 3 are words that students will run into eventually in their studies, considered "low-frequency words," and are only utilized in specialized areas, i.e., nucleus, proton, etc.
We should be introducing these words in explicit ways and our students need to have multiple encounters with these words so they can make those big connections. They need to practice the words within their context and connect those words that they already know and use (i.e., synonyms).

Four Key Components of Vocabulary Instruction

  1. Wide Reading
  2. Instruction of Individual Words
  3. Word Learning Strategies
  4. Development of Word Consciousness

What IS Word Consciousness?

This involves being completely aware and interested in the words and their meanings of what we are teaching. We also should take note when new words that are introduced are not being used or not being used properly. Children who are word conscious are very motivated to learn new words and want to use them as skillfully as we do or better. As teachers, we need to help them become these word conscious children, especially when they come from families where their vocabularies are not expanded.

Stop "Dumbing Down" Language and Be a Word-Conscious Teacher!

This is something we should not do. Children know what some of those complicated words we use are. We should help them learn them, but not just use something like, "Please put these in ABC order" instead of "Please alphabetize these for me!" We should always be there to help students learn words that they want and help them learn to use them in the correct context!

Discussion Questions

1. What are some ideas you have for using vocabulary modeling in your classroom?

2. What do you think of the three tier system for vocabulary? Does it remind you of any other strategy?

3. What do you think of the two teachers talked about and what did you like or not like about their modeling strategies for vocabulary?