Posted in comprehension, spelling, visual supports, vocabulary

Vocabulary and Teaching: Top Five things “on my mind”



The above image makes me think about what not do when teaching vocabulary: copying lists and dictionary definitions. Thankfully, research lets us know that vocabulary instruction does not have to be boring! There are many opportunities for student-centered instruction through word study, student-written definitions, and student friendly definitions. I envision my classroom looking more like the image below:



  1. The relationship between vocabulary and comprehension is “almost perfect”—a correlation of .97, according to Elfrieda Hiebert. This is why I teach vocabulary before, during or after reading. I have given students a Vocabulary Inventory I created based on Dale’s levels of word knowledge.
  1. Students need to know that words can have multiple meanings. Studying idioms and homographs are two ways that students consider multiple meanings.
  1. A “generative approach” gives students tools to figure out unknown vocabulary.  Students need to expect that there will be many words that they do not know in a complex text; thus, teachers equip students with the tools or strategies to comprehend the words they read.
  2. Assessing student spelling patterns gives teachers information on how a child interprets the orthographic system. In the upper grades, studying spelling-meaning patterns is crucial for academic vocabulary growth, according to Bear et al (2010).
  3. Students need exposure to words in a variety of contexts. To quote Alfred Korzybski, “Words don’t mean, people mean.” One can argue that people place meaning on words through speaking and writing. This means plenty of independent reading, structured read-alouds, and visual supports.



Bear, D. R., Flanagan, K., Hayes, L., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F.

(2010). Words their Way (1st ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Hiebert, E. (Writer). (n.d.). 77sec on core vocabulary [Video file]. In YouTube.

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