Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vocabulary Matters: Strategies that Work Part 2: Specific Word Instruction- Selecting What Words to Teach

Last week I gave you an overview of Vocabulary Matters: Strategies That Word and I had some great feedback. In case you missed it you can click HERE to catch up or review.  Today I want to talk about the most critical part of Vocabulary Instruction: Selecting the Words to Teach. Whether you directly introduce words through Read-Alouds or through reading texts read independently you need to know what words you need to target.
According to reading researchers including Isabel Beck and the National Reading Panel 2000:
Specific vocabulary instruction should:

  • focus on words that are contextualized in literature, important to know and useful in many situations.
  • provide "rich," in-depth knowledge of word meanings- not just repeating the definitions.
  • provide clear, accessible explanations and examples of the meaning of the word in various contexts.
  • provide opportunities for students to discuss, analyse, use, and compare these words in these contexts.
  • provide multiple exposures to the words in more than one context.
  • actively engage students in deep processing by getting them to use new words in new contexts and to create associations among words.
That's a lot to think about but before we do those things we need to know how to select these specific words. It would be nice if there was a list we could pull out but it doesn't exist. Isabel Beck  and her colleagues have developed the three- tier system (Margarita Calderon has developed one for ELLs) which is what I want to focus on today. To download your copy of the Guidelines just click on the picture below. I have copied it from the Vocabulary Handbook that I referred to last week and is from Isabel Beck.
So let's do a little exercise: Look at the picture below: Look at the explanation of the 3 tiers. If you click on it you can download your copy.
What words did you think were Tier I?  I think they are the easiest to find: see, take, train and play.
What words did you think were Tier II? If you selected astronomy, archipelago, and molecule you are correct. They are content specific words.

The rest are your Tier II words- the ones that students are unlikely to know (depending on grade
level) they can be explained in everyday language, they are generally useful, they can be encountered across a wide variety of domains and their meaning will probably be necessary to comprehend a text. 

So in a nutshell: For your average Second grade Student:(Based on Biemiller and Slonin,2001)

You can download a copy of  all of Vocabulary Matters Part 2 by clicking HERE 

I hope you will follow my blog or follow by e-mail if you find Vocabulary Matters: Strategies that Work
helpful for you. Next week I will continue with more of Selecting Words to Teach as there is still a lot to cover. Hope you will leave comments letting me know if this is useful for you .

Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students.

How was today's post helpful for you?


  1. ha! we are doing this as our school's prof. development - and using the same book!! This is great Arlene!! I'm off to go look at your pack now!!
    The Teacher’s Cauldron

    1. So excited to hear that you are using this book for PD Jen. Thanks for all you do for your students.

  2. I'm loving these posts Arlene..vocabulary instruction is such an important part of teaching..I'm so happy to have this extra help..absolutely wonderful! Thank you!:)

    1. Thanks so much Gladys- so happy it is helping.

  3. I just found this on different and am so glad, thanks for breaking it down this way and taking the time to explain now I can sshare it at our next PD meeting...

    1. So glad to here this. Hope you will follow and read all the posts.

  4. Thanks for the great information!

  5. Thank you for such a thoughtful post, Arlene! I struggle teaching vocabulary in my classroom and this was a great help :)


  6. This is a great tip. I see me using it in science vocabulary too. Thanks!
    Teacher's Clipart

  7. This is very useful information that isn't always explained in undergrad.

  8. Great stuff, Arlene! remember learning about this 3 tier system when I took my LETRS training this past summer. Great stuff, that makes a lot of sense!

    Sally from Elementary Matters