Vocabulary Rich Classrooms

Academic Vocabulary

Harry Hazlitt, American Journalist

"A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one's vocabulary and the greater one's awareness of the fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one's thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them, grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing."
Vocabulary-rich classrooms foster the language development of learners of all ages.


*General academic vocabulary

*Curricular vocabulary

*Conversational vocabulary

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What the research says ...

In a 2010 article from The Reading Teacher, University of Florida professors Holly Lane and Stephanie Allen discuss classrooms that epitomize vocabulary integration through everyday language use. Lane and Allen assert that teachers can gradually enhance students’ vocabulary through modeling sophisticated vocabulary on a day to day basis in classrooms as young as kindergarten. The findings of their research indicate that fostering incidental learning and word consciousness through frequent and deliberate modeling of sophisticated vocabulary can add significant breadth to students’ vocabularies. Augmenting the sophistication of labels for familiar ideas continually scaffolds students’ vocabulary development.


Lane, H.B., & Allen, S. (2010, February). The Vocabulary-Rich Classroom: Modeling Sophisticated Word Use to Promote Word Consciousness and Vocabulary Growth. The Reading Teacher, 63(5), 362–370.

Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices 2008 Department of Education

Provide explicit vocabulary instruction

Teachers should provide students with explicit vocabulary instruction both as part of reading and language arts classes and as part of content- area classes such as science and social studies. By giving students explicit instruction in vocabulary, teachers help them learn the meaning of new words and strengthen their independent skills of constructing the meaning of text.

Level of evidence: Strong

How it looks in the classroom...

1. Dedicate a portion of the regular classroom lesson to explicit vocabulary instruction.

2. Use repeated exposure to new words in multiple oral and written contexts and allow

sufficient practice sessions.

3. Give sufficient opportunities to use new vocabulary in a variety of contexts through

activities such a discussion, writing, and extended reading.

4. Provide students with strategies to make them independent vocabulary learners.