Module Two Reflection

Robin Smith

What I've Learned:

  • A single definition falls short of making a word useful. Rather, it is important to consider the word schema, the complex knowledge of a word, to understand that words are not isolated (Fisher and Fry 2016).
  • When teaching academic vocabulary it is important for the teacher to verbalize the words and not just focus on the written portion of learning. Teachers should speak words in a context that makes the meaning clear to students (Himmele and Himmele 2009).
  • Tier 2 words are general academic vocabulary words that students will encounter frequently in academic language. These words are cross-curricular and it is important for students to have multiple exposure to them (Tyson 2013).
  • It is important for students to be actively involved in their word learning and to make personal connections to the vocabulary (Fisher and Fry 2016). Understanding how a text connects to events in their world helps take away the excuses from students (Tankersley 2005).
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Not one, but many

There are several ways I plan to incorporate this new knowledge into my high school history classroom. I like many of the ideas that Harmon and Wood (2008) suggest. Students need to see words over time and in multiple contexts rather than just seeing the word and learning a definition. This requires teaching words in relation to other words, much like the SHIFT 6 video (below) explained when using word webs. This is especially important for tier 2 words as these are academic words that students will see not only in history, but across disciplines. Teaching tier 2 and tier 3 words can happen simultaneously and doing so aligns with teaching words in context as described by Fisher and Fry (2016). The cubing activity explained by Harmon and Wood ask students to use the vocabulary they learned (tier 3 content words) to demonstrate their understanding of a term by describing, comparing, associating, analyzing, applying, or arguing (all of which are tier 2 words).

SHIFT 6: Academic Vocabulary

Verbalizing Vocab

One thing I found myself guilty of throughout the course readings is my failure to read aloud and model to students as often as I should. Himmele and Himmele (2009) express the necessity of speaking words to students and using the vocabulary in a meaningful context for student comprehension. As a high school teacher I guess I viewed this as something that happens at the elementary level without realizing the significance it has for student learning in the secondary classroom. I want to model reading with content level words so students understand words in context. I also want to model asking good questions and formulating good answers, which involves modeling and teaching the use of tier 2 words. This will be especially helpful to my AP United States History class where the wording for their exam questions is centered on tier 2 words asking them to analyze, evaluate, determine, etc. If I can model reading the question they will learn what the words mean and how to formulate a correct answer.

Let's get personal

One of the articles I was consistently drawn back to over the module was the article by Karen Tankersley (2005). Some of the big takeaways I gathered from her article included the importance of showing students how a text relates to their world, allowing students a choice in their reading, and allowing students to learn from their peers. I love her ideas to make the classroom more relaxed and an open space where students feel free to express their ideas and the stigma of learning is taken away. I want to incorporate some of her ideas into my own classroom including the poetry coffee shops. I can see this working with history as students use certain vocab words on a topic to write a short poem we then share on a specific day when our classroom is turned into a coffee shop for student presentations. I also plan to look into doing book clubs and gathering 4-6 books for students at various reading levels to read over the course of time and hold weekly "book club" meetings to discuss the text, vocab, and answer questions.


Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2016). Improving Adolescent Literacy: Content Area Strategies at Work.

(4th edition). Boston: Pearson.

Harmon, J. & Wood, K. (2008). “Content Area Vocabulary: A Critical Key to Conceptual

Learning.” Adolescent Literacy In Perspective. October, 2-6.

Himmele, P. & Himmele, W. (2009). Increasing Exposure to Academic Language by Speaking It. From The Language-Rich Classroom: A Research-Based Framework for Teaching English Language Learners (pp. 30–33).

Tankersley, K. (2005). The Struggling Reader. In Literacy Strategies for grades 4-12. (chapter 1) Retrieved from

Tyson, K. (2013). No Tears for Tiers: Common Core Tiered Vocabulary Made Simple l Dr. Kimberly's Literacy Blog. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from