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How to Teach Vocabulary

Grades 4-8 Comprehensive Vocabulary

Comprehensive Vocabulary

How to Teach Vocabulary asks and provides possible answers to the Why Should We Teach Explicit Vocabulary? Won’t Students Learn More from Independent Reading? Which Vocabulary Words Should We Teach? To Whom Should We Teach Academic Vocabulary? How Much Class Time does it take to teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards? Disclaimer: The author has published several vocabulary resources.

Why Should We Teach Explicit Vocabulary? Isn’t Isolated Vocabulary Instruction a Big “No No?” Won’t Students Learn More from Independent Reading?

Besides the fact that the Common Core authors specifically include Standards which required direct instruction, it just makes sense that some direct instruction will be necessary. We’re not suggesting long lists of isolated words, though some memorization is important.

Independent reading certainly produces the bulk of our Tier I and some Tier II words, but some of the latter require in-depth understanding. See the Diagnostic Academic Language Assessments free download at the end of this article to pinpoint which academic words (Tier II) your students know and do not yet know.

Which Vocabulary Words Should We Teach?

In Appendix A the authors discuss academic language and suggest that students get the most “bang for the buck” out of teaching Tier 2 words. An amazing list developed by academic word frequency can help teachers prioritize non-domain specific words that are truly cross-curricular.

Greek and Latin morphology: connecting the phonology, orthography, and semantics of prefixes, bases, and suffixes is critically important These Greek and Latinates make up at least one syllable of 50% of dictionary words and up to 70% of Tier II academic words. But which should students know and at what grade level. Check out these frequency studies of the most often used word parts and the grades 4-8 instructional scope and sequence for vocabulary instruction. Knowing how to teach these word parts so that students will be able to learn related words is critically important.

To Whom Should We Teach Academic Vocabulary?

The short answer is every student. Teaching only survival vocabulary to English language learners, special education students, and remedial reading students is handicapping the very students who need to power of words most. We have to avoid the “soft bigotry of low expectations” (Michael Gerson).

How Much Class Time does it take to teach the Vocabulary Standards?

Most English-language specialists suggest that short, interactive vocabulary lessons make sense. Adding just 20 minutes per week practice, say 10 minutes twice per week, can make an enormous difference. Check out this sensible weekly instructional plan.


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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