To begin, let’s discuss the three types of vocabulary.
Tier 1 vocabulary words are basic words that are commonly used in spoken language. Direct instruction is not typically needed. Some examples of Tier 1 words are: book, pencil, boy, green, dog, happy, and jump.
Tier 2 vocabulary words are the high-frequency words or multiple meaning words. These words are necessary to enhance reading fluency and comprehension. As children mature these words will appear in their conversation, meaning they are essential for speaking and reading skills.Direct instruction is important to strengthen students knowledge of tier 2 words. Some examples of Tier 2 words are: curious, explore, exhausted, rarely, and furious.
Tier 3 vocabulary words are content specific words.These words are considered low-frequency words and are more concrete. These words are used when teaching a specific subject such as math, science, social studies. Direct instruction is used to teach these words when the need arises. Some examples of Tier 3 words are: nervous system, bar graph, Revolutionary War, and sedimentary rocks.
So how do you help students build and retain vocabulary? First, recognize which tier words you are using and choose a method to teach those words. Here are some ideas you may want to try with your students.
Word Wall- Recently learned words can be displayed on the wall to allow you and the students to refer to as necessary. Tier 2 words should be used often through the course of the year. Having those words at a glance provides an enrichment learning space.
Interactive Word Wall- This is an enhancement to the basic word wall display. This method can be used with any Tier vocabulary level. Make a booklet for each letter of the alphabet. When introducing new vocabulary make a card with the word, definition, picture, part of speech, and list of words with the same meanings. Teachers and students can then refer back to those words at anytime.
Vocabulary Journal-The journal would be a personal reference for students to keep. The journal should be designed and easily set up for students at the beginning of the year. The pages can be designed in a table format or Frayer model. The goal when using the journal if for students to learn the word, definition, an example by writing a sentence, and identifying synonyms and antonyms.
Visual displays and Word Relationships-When introducing new vocabulary, provide a picture or video to allow visualization. Discuss the word relationships by coming up with synonyms, antonyms and other examples using the words. This method should be more cooperative group discussion. Often times I challenge my table groups to come up with the word relationships.They are given one Frayer Model Vocabulary Map to fill in as much information as possible. The tables compete for the best responses to earn “tickets”, one of my classroom management tools. The students end up learning the vocabulary from one another.
“Mirror with words and motions”-This method is one of my personal favorites and a big hit with my first graders. This is a modified piece of “Whole Brain Teaching”. Anytime we learn a new word and meaning, I will come up with hand motions or body movements to help students learn the words. As the year progresses, my students get pretty good at coming up with their own motions to teach to the class. We become actors and actresses in our classroom. We will repeat the words, definitions, and motions a few times. This allows students to move around a bit while also learning something new. We can then use those motions to play games for review. Since many of those Tier 2 words are used frequently throughout the school year, having those motions help students to grasp the meaning and are more likely to retain the vocabulary.
Daily/Weekly word goals-Using the new vocabulary, choose a word or a few words you want your students to master. Set a daily goal or weekly goal to use the word or words in conversation at school and home, use the words in writing, and identify the words in books, magazines, and words in the world (ie. restaurants, stores, or signs). Students could also wear vocabulary name tags that state, “Ask me about__________.” That allows the students to use the word and teach someone else the vocabulary.
Vocabulary Center-I use a Vocabulary Center during my guided reading groups. A group of students that are not working with a teacher, may be working in the center. You can use several activities to practice new vocabulary. Students can write, define, draw, and create an example using the words. A synonym/antonym matching game or word/picture/definition matching game is another form of practice.
Websites and Apps-Students enjoy any opportunity to use technology. Websites and apps can be used in the classroom or at home to provide additional vocabulary practice.
Teaching vocabulary should be interactive and fun to allow the best possible chance for knowledge retention. Vocabulary is constantly developing within our students minds. Be mindful of the three levels of vocabulary and allocate time for preparation. Students demonstrate their level of vocabulary knowledge by being able to listen, speak, read, write, and teach others new terminology, Choose methods that work well for you and your students to be successful.