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How to Teach Word Relationships Vocabulary

How to Teach Word Relationships Vocabulary

How to Teach Word Relationships

In Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards, the authors discuss the importance of learning new vocabulary in the context of word relationships. To deeply understand a new word, often students must see this word in light of its connections to other words. The authors state,

Students benefit from instruction about the connections and patterns in language.
Developing in students an analytical attitude toward the logic and sentence structure of their texts, alongside an
awareness of word parts, word origins, and word relationships, provides students with a sense of how language works
such that syntax, morphology, and etymology can become useful cues in building meaning as students encounter
new words and concepts (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2008) (Appendix A 32).

Years ago the SAT tested vocabulary through word relationships, known as analogies. Knowing the typical analogy categories helped students make educated guesses to be able to match one set of word relationships to another. For example, NIGHT is to DAY in the same way as TALL is to SHORT. Both sets illustrate antonym categories.

Many teachers have found that teaching analogies helps students understand how new words fit into already-known words. Building these word connections helps students better memorize and also use the new vocabulary with greater precision.

Which Word Relationships and Which Words to Teach

Both word relationships and new vocabulary should increase in complexity throughout the grade levels. For example, from item to category, such as with hurricane to weather in grade 4, students should progress to problem to solution, such as with infection to diagnosis in grade 8. Where can you get such a list of word relationships and words? Print off my comprehensive grades 4-8 Vocabulary Scope and Sequence to plan your vocabulary instruction, found at the end of this article.

The instructional scope and sequence is from my three vocabulary programs for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (described at the end of the article). Not only is there an instructional plan for word relationship, but all Vocabulary Standards are included:

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

How to Teach Word Relationships

To teach word relationships deeply, provide students with paired words to be learned which have a definable category relationship. Require students to write sentences which apply context clues strategies to show the different meanings of the two words in relationship to each other. Teach the S.A.L.E. Context Clue Strategies to equip your students to use surrounding word clues.


For full-year vocabulary programs which include multiple meaning words (L.4.a.), Greek and Latin morphology with Morphology Walls (L.4.a.), figures of speech (L.5.a.), words with special relationships (L.5.b.), words with connotative meanings (L.5.c.), and academic language words (L.6.0), check out the assessment-based grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Comprehensive Vocabulary.

Get the Grades 4,5,6,7,8 Vocabulary Sequence of Instruction FREE Resource:

Get the Greek and Latin Morphology Walls FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic Academic Language Assessment FREE Resource:

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