There really is no getting away from it…

Vocabulary instruction matters and needs to be embedded into a balanced framework of literacy instruction. This means finding time in an already very stretched teaching day. The research highlights the strong link between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. According to Graves (2009) vocabulary knowledge in Kindergarten and first grade is a significant predictor of reading comprehension in the higher grades. The work you put into it in the early years is worthwhile. So how should explicit instruction look…?

Suggested Instructional Sequence for Teaching Individual Word Meaning

10-15 minutes a day of systematic vocabulary instruction.

Day 1: Read the story aloud

  • Select a text that is rich in Tier 2 words for your class level. (For more on how to choose Tier 2 words see here).
  • Prepare child friendly definitions for each selected word on cards. All book packs including word cards are available to purchase HERE.

  • Read the text aloud so that they have the story in their head.


I recommend you pre-read the story before introducing the word cards. As some stories are longer than others it may be hard to reread the full story each day you work on the words. You may need to just focus in on the sentence/paragraph to show the word in context.

Day 2: Introduce the Tier 2 words in context and discuss

  • Read aloud the sentence or paragraph in which the new word occurs. This provides context.
  • Introduce the Tier 2 words with a child friendly definition (using the word cards).
  • Have children repeat the word (“Say it with me”) to build memory for the sound and meaning.
  • Give additional context in which we might use the word.
  • Have children provide their own examples of when to use the word.

Day 3-4: Engage children in activities to encourage deeper understanding of the target words

  • Engage children in activities in which they need to deal with various dimensions of the word’s meaning. Ask questions using the target words which the children have to justify their answer. E.g. Would someone be wet if they avoided the large puddles on yard? (do this for each word/encourage children to come up with questions also).
  • Provide opportunities for multiple exposures of the words. E.g. If avoid is one of your target words, instead of saying “keep away from puddles on the yard”, say “avoid the puddles on yard”.
  • Provide opportunities for children to apply the words to a range of contexts. E.g. Sentence stems to complete, that’s… game. E.g. if I walk around the puddles on yard, That’s … “avoiding”.
  • Challenge children to think about how the words could be used outside of the classroom: e.g. for a healthy diet what are some of the foods we should avoid or have less of?

Day 5: Assessment

The kind of knowledge that needs to be assessed is not definitional. The important thing to think about is what can children do with the words that they know? and how do they use them?

  • During the week collect and record data on the frequency and context of Tier 2 words used. (Data sheets are available with each book pack purchased).
  • Use teacher designed assessment such as multiple choice questions and true or false.

General organisation

Vocab display on stairs

Display word cards around the room/school. Keep them active by drawing children’s attention to them. Remind children to include them in their writing where appropriate.


For more detail on this approach, read Chapter 4 of Bringing Words to Life,

by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s