Developing Vocabulary

Element 10A.5: Teaches, expects and actively supports student use of academic and content specific vocabulary

Why is this important?

The human brain is wired for language development, which is a good thing because without language, it would be terribly hard to communicate, to learn, and to communicate learning. Since language impacts reading, writing, speaking, listening and learning in all content areas, it stands to reason that vocabulary development across all content areas would be key. Strong academic vocabulary combined with strong content specific vocabulary allows students to understand what they are reading, be precise when talking or writing, evaluate relevance and credibility when researching, provide and understand specific feedback when critiquing or assisting, and deepens learning. To be effective, vocabulary development strategies need to support multiple encounters with words, provide practice with words in context, and be appropriately matched to the type of words being learned (e.g., key concepts, multi-meaning words, technical vocabulary). Since gaps in vocabulary can reliably predict gaps in performance, all teachers need to take responsibility for supporting students to develop academic and content vocabulary related to what students are expected to learn and do. Note that "assign, define and test" is not an effective method for learning vocabulary.

You might want to start here:

See it in action:
  • Use of the Semantic Gradients strategy in a second grade classroom from Reading Rockets: Vocabulary
  • Use of the Frayer Model in a third grade classroom from The Teaching Toolkit: Frayer Model

Example of interactive word wall in an 8th grade Social Studies classroom from EL Education: Interactive Word Wall: 

Example of seventh grade ELA class activity "Kick Me" from the Teaching Channel - Working with analogies: 

Of course, explicit teaching of academic and content vocabulary is even more critical for English Language Learners:

Using nonlinguistic representations to help English Language Learners and others to learn academic vocabulary: 

Teaching academic vocabulary to high school English Language Learners: 

Blog post from Scholastic:
Blog post re: teaching vocabulary in the math classroom:
Blog post from Teach Hub re: strategies for teaching vocabulary in the elementary classroom:
Google vocabulary strategies and your content area (e.g., science, social studies, art) and you will find lots of ideas!

After exploring this high impact strategy:

1. What are your most important takeaways?

2. In what ways do you anticipate this will impact or shift your practice?

3. What questions do you have at this point?