The Power of Words

Develop a love of vocabulary with these ideas from Comprehension Connection!  Vocabulary development helps all of our students grow

Pause for a moment and just think about the power of books. I have watched children curl up with a good book and laugh out loud, tear up at the sadness of a scene, use them as a resource for just the right word they want, and move from Brown Bear to Hatchet.  It is nothing less than magic, and it all begins with words. Words have power, and with the words, we grow wings.

Vocabulary Tiers

As think about words, we have to understand that not all words are equal. Isabel Beck in Bringing Words to Life explains that words can be categorized into tiers. Here's an explanation of how the word tiers work.

Tier 1 words 

These words are basic vocabulary or the more common words most children will know. They include high-frequency words and usually are not multiple meaning words. Examples of tier 1 words are town, boy, and truck.

Tier 2 words

These words are less familiar, yet useful vocabulary found in written text. The Common Core State Standards refers to these as “general academic words.” Sometimes they are referred to as “rich vocabulary.” These words are more precise or subtle forms of familiar words and include multiple meaning words. Instead of walk for example, saunter could be used. These words are the target for vocabulary instruction.

Tier 3 words

CCSS refers to these words as “domain specific.” These words are critical to understanding the concepts of the content taught. They are lower in frequency use and are limited to specific knowledge domains. Examples would include words such as isotope, peninsula, refinery. With these words, we teach them as we meet them.

Book Recommendations

As we think about vocabulary instruction, we should consider the various ways we can weave in vocabulary work into our lessons. I have called upon a few bloggy friends' expertise in this area to share vocabulary building ideas. My pal, Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second wrote this wonderful post about Fancy Nancy a while back on Adventures in Literacy Land, and it got me thinking about books that are rich in vocabulary. Of course, one author I must mention is Patricia Polacco.  She has a wonderful way to weaving in colorful language, but the books to the right are ones you must add to your shopping carts next time you're perusing through books for your classroom.

From the Desk Of...

Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second says:
I am a WORD NERD! I love the rhythm and rhyme of song lyrics and poems, and use them in my classroom daily to help my students build their sight word vocabulary, recognize familiar spelling patterns in words, develop phonemic awareness skills, expand vocabulary, and improve reading fluency. Vocabulary in songs paint interesting pictures for students.

Figurative Language 

Idioms Bundle {Having a Ball with Idioms and Time Flies}As we think about vocabulary, another important teaching point is to teach the difference between literal and figurative language. Think about how challenging our language is for our ELL students with the many meanings of words and then, we throw in idioms.  My friend, Marissa from Inspired Owl's Corner has created the product to the left for teaching idioms. It's important to include instruction on idioms all year long, and to do this, you might make an idiom wall where students post idioms they hear or come across in their reading. You might highlight an idiom each day with explicit instruction in the meaning and usage of each.  Here are a few websites you might consult for examples:
The Idiom Connection

From the Desk of...

Marissa from Inspired Owl's Corner has a few thoughts. Her tip for teaching vocabulary is a take away from the book, Word Nerds by Brenda Overturf
One idea from the book we have been using is vocabulary lanyards. I have heard of doing this with a word of the day, but I never thought to do it with all of the vocabulary words!  I write the vocabulary words on cards which are slipped into badge holders with clips, and the students wear them. Throughout the day, I call on certain vocabulary words. Students give me the definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and use the words in sentences. This is a perfect way to get all of my students up and speaking, especially my ELL students.
Multiple Meaning Words SetAs our students work through the day, some find it difficult to remain focused and still. With tough concepts such as vocabulary, teachers might connect the content to movement. My friend Pam from Mrs. P's Specialties is a believer in brain breaks since she works with students that have special needs. She says, "Having a variety of movement activities ready to use when a lesson ends early or when kiddos are antsy and need to get up and move helps them refocus much more quickly." For her students, she emphasizes teaching multiple meanings of words. The product she's donated to our giveaway addresses this skill. Her product is intended to be used as a center, and using centers in the classroom is highly recommended since they provide our students with additional practice opportunities with words. It takes 12-15 exposures to words for them to become part of a person's speaking vocabulary.

Phonics Scoot and Sorts: VCE and short vowel words
The last bloggy friend contributing to our giveaway and post is Emily from Curious Firsties. Emily's done quite a few posts related to vocabulary, so definitely visit her blog to read more. She recommends Isabel Beck's latest book, Text Talks. For her students, she ties all instruction to real life. Students need concrete examples to attach their learning to. Emily has donated the product to the right to our giveaway. Using word study to move our students along the reading continuum is another way to weave in vocabulary. When you're teaching CVC words, include words like slant or gasp to add rich meaning to the sorting process.

From the Desk of...

Emily from Curious Firsties shares:
Look at your curriculum and select words for direct instruction. This is what we are going to work towards in my building. My partners Karen, Kathy, and I decided that we wanted to try it out in a manageable way this year through the nursery rhymes that we are already using in our daily guided reading groups. Instead of only focusing on Phonological Awareness aspects of they rhyme, we will discuss some of the "vivacious" vocabulary that can be found in them.
So what can you take away from these ideas?   Look for multiple ways to add rich, explicit vocabulary instruction into your day. Put word meanings into kid-friendly language and expose your kids to the words over and over again. Spend the time on tier 2 words, but don't overlook idioms and multiple meanings of words and keep your instruction active and fun. Post the words on a word wall for reference for writing and speaking later. With targeted instruction, those words will give your kids reader wings.

Vocabulary Freebies to Try Out

Phonics Scoot: AR pattern FREEBIE       Graphic Organizers {Freebie}   Vibrant Vocabulary Starter Set--Fancy Nancy Book Companion
Vocabulary Graphic Organizer    Vocabulary Graphic Organizer for Word Introduction    Weekly Word Ladder Vocabulary Activity
FREEBIE Vocabulary Four Square Recording Sheet FREEBIE Blank Vocabulary Cards for Badge Holders
I hope you enjoyed today's vocabulary tips. See you tomorrow with tips for the primary reader.


  1. What a great post! Vocabulary is just SO important to our students especially when language is not valued in their homes. But it can really be tricky and difficult to teach. Thanks for this post!

  2. SO many great ideas Carla! Thank you so much for your hard work putting all of this amazing info in one place for us! I'm reminded of the importance of vocabulary, and plan to put many of these ideas into practice when I return to school! :)


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