Vocabulary Instruction that Counts

I began my teaching journey as a reading teacher at a middle school. My experience confirmed all of the research I had been exposed to about vocabulary instruction.

Essentially, vocabulary is the bedrock of literacy. If a student doesn’t understand key terms in a reading, then the student will struggle with that reading.

This essential truth transfers to literacy in every content area. As vocabulary improves, comprehension improves, as comprehension improves, understanding of the subject under study improves.

We should understand then that vocabulary instruction is vital to student literacy and subsequently success in the content areas.

So the question then becomes not whether to directly teach vocabulary, but rather, how do we make that instruction count?

I remember vocabulary instruction at my high school. We would get a list of words in every class at the beginning of a unit/chapter/reading. We were told to define those words. If it was an enormous list, we would often divide it, copy, and conquer.

That is not vocabulary instruction.That is busy work.

In order to make vocabulary instruction count, we must go beyond defining a  word. We must make that word meaningful for students. We must require the students to think about words and word parts on multiple levels, not just define them.

I have compiled some classroom tested strategies on the pages linked above–strategies for content instruction as well as literacy and test prep. Stick around and check them out. You may find something for your classroom!