Collaborative Conversations

Working Together to Build Academic Vocabulary


"...vocabulary is the glue that holds stories, ideas, and content together...making comprehension accessible for children" (Rupley, Logan, and Nichols, 1999, p. 339).

Resources compiled by:

Chandra Manning
Betsy Hammond
Dubraska Stines

Vocabulary Is Everyone's Subject

In order for most students to grow their academic vocabulary bank, explicit instruction must take place. Like many forms of good instruction, it should be student-centered and engaging.

For the purposes of instruction, Beck and McKeown (1985) suggest that vocabulary terms be categorized into three tiers. Later, Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002) described

  • Tier 1 as terms that are basic to the English language because of their high frequency.
  • Tier 2 terms are those that appear infrequently enough that they will probably not be learned incidentally by students.
  • Tier 3 terms are subject-specific terms that, although not frequently found in the course of general speaking or reading, are important to general literacy in specific subject area.

If you have already been trained in ExC-ELL, please keep at it! Most of your instructional words should be contextual and that framework will help ELLs and native English speakers.

Robert Marzano has also researched vocabulary for many years. He developed a 6-step process to vocabulary instruction. We are sharing Marzano's method as an approach to teaching academic words frequently found on standardized assessments.

Pre-Teaching Vocabulary with the ExC-ELL Framework

Seek out those who have gone through extensive ExC-ELL training. Donna Beck is a great resource!

Vocabulary Resources

Click here to access a Marzano 6 Step Approach to Teaching Academic Vocabulary Google Doc that houses resources to help instruct and provide multiple exposures.

Chandra has a "Word Nerd" Vocabulary LiveBinder with information, ideas, and templates.

Dubraska has a Vocabulary Instruction Wiki with even more!