Choosing Vocabulary Words


Selecting Vocabulary Words to Teach

When I plan my lessons, vocabulary becomes a top priority. I know that a student’s maximum reading comprehension is determined by their word knowledge. Their progress through reading levels is determined by their knowledge of words. They need to a strong word base comprehend text. I make sure that when I’m teaching new vocabulary words I want them to know how to define the word, recognize when to use that word, know its multiple meaning (if any), and read/spell the word.

So, with all those words out there, how do you choose?

When I’m planning, I group my words into three tiers.

Tier 1 words

Tier 1 words are words that students typically know. For example, a Tier 1 word might be butterfly. Another Tier 1 word might be march (move like a soldier). A word like march can be easily instructed during text discussion by marching in place. But because this word has multiple meanings, it also merits further instruction. This can be accomplished through oral language activities that follow the text discussion.

Tier 2 words

Tier 2 words are more complex than Tier 1 words. They usually are ones that students need to understand that are all over the core curriculum. Words like area, perimeter, rivers, mountains are important for them know.  These are the words I spend my time on; making sure they know these words.

Tier 3 words

These are low-frequency words that are found mostly in content books in the upper grades or words that students need a brief working knowledge of but don’t need to understand the word at a great depth. I tend to think of these words as nice to know but not critical to students understanding the text a great depth of knowledge; like metric system or time zone. These words I usually tell the group when we are doing our picture walk. Something short and sweet-just enough for them to get the jest and move on. 

I'm always on the hunt for new ways to teach vocabulary. What are your favorite ways to teach students vocabulary? 




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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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