Planning and Preparation Teach the Meaning of Critical, Unknown Vocabulary Words

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Planning and Preparation

Teach the Meaning of Critical, Unknown Vocabulary Words

  1. READ the text and determine the Major Understandings students should develop from the text. (What will students accomplish during this lesson/unit of study)

    1. Anticipate problems the text may pose to your students.

    2. Target vocabulary necessary to allow for deep processing of the text.

  2. General guidelines for selecting words for vocabulary instruction.

    1. Select words that are unknown.

    2. Select words that are critical to passage understanding.

    3. Select words that students are likely to encounter in the future and are generally useful. (Stahl, 1986)

    4. Focus on Tier Two words (Beck & McKeown, 2003)

    5. High frequency for mature language users and found across a variety of domains

      1. Words that are critical to the understanding of the story (might be “show and go” or fast-mapped words). For example: absurd, maintain, fortunate.

      2. Instruction geared toward these words can be most productive

    6. Teach idioms (A phrase or expression in which the entire meaning is different from the usual meaning of the individual words.)

      1. “The car rolling down the hill caught my eye.”

      2. “Soon we were in stitches.”

      3. “The painting cost me an arm and a leg.”

      4. “The teacher was under the weather.”

    7. Prepare Student Friendly Definitions.

      1. Dictionary Definition: Attention - (a.) the act or state of attending through applying the mind to an object of sense or thought (b.) a condition of readiness for such attention involving a selective narrowing of consciousness and receptivity

      2. Example'>Student-Friendly Definition Example: Explanation from Dictionary for English Language Learners (Elementary Learner’s Dictionary published by Oxford) Attention - looking or listening carefully and with interest

      3. Online Web Dictionaries

    1. Robust, Explicit Vocabulary Instruction

      1. Attributes of good vocabulary instruction

        1. Multiple exposures

        2. Definitional information and contextual information

        3. Sufficient amount of instructional time to insure understanding of words

        4. Active engagement in instruction

    2. Teach Academic Vocabulary

Instructional Routine for Teaching Critical, Unknown Vocabulary Words

Adapted from Anita L. Archer, PhD.

Used to provide explicit, direct instruction of priority target words.

Step 1

Introduce the word.

  1. Write the word on the board

  2. Read the word. Have the students read the word.

  3. Repeat for unfamiliar words.


This word is reluctant.”

What word? _____

Yes, reluctant.

Step 2

Present a student friendly definition.

  1. Tell students the explanation, or

  2. Have students read explanation with you.

Reluctant means you are not sure you want to do something.

“When you are not sure you want to do something, you are ….”

Step 3

Illustrate the word with examples.

  • Concrete examples

  • Visual representations

  • Verbal examples

“If your mother asked you to try a new food, you might be reluctant.”

“You may be reluctant to watch a scary movie.”

Step 4

Check Students’ Understanding

Option 1: Deep Processing Questions

Option 2: Examples/Nonexamples
Option 3: Students generate examples
Option 4: Sentence starter

“Why would a student be reluctant to go to a new school?”

“Would you be reluctant to go to recess on a warm and sunny day?”

“Tell your partner something you would be reluctant to do.”

Start your sentence by saying, “A cat might be reluctant to ….” Then tell why.

Adapted from Western Regional Reading First Technical Center

  1. Teach the Meaning of Critical, Unknown Vocabulary Words- Instructional Routine

    • Step 1: Introduce the word

      1. Write the word on the board. For example, relieved - re.lieved “This word is relieved. What word?” __________

      2. Read the word. Students repeat. (Example: Read the word, read the parts, read the word)

      3. Repeat for unfamiliar words. (Repeat the process for difficult words)

    • Step 2: Present a Student-Friendly Definition

      1. Tell students an explanation, or

      2. Have the students read the explanation with you. For example, When something that is difficult is over or never happened at all, you feel relieved. So if something that is difficult is over, you would feel _______________.

    • Step 3: Illustrate the word with examples

      1. Concrete Examples “When the spelling test is over, you feel relieved.” “When you have finished giving the speech that you dreaded, you feel relieved.”

      2. Visual representations (Pictures)

      3. Verbal examples.

    • Step 4: Check Students’ Understanding

      1. Option 1: Ask Deep Processing Questions.

        1. When the students lined up for morning recess, Jason said, “I am so relieved that this morning is over.” Why might Jason be relieved?

        2. When Maria was told that the soccer game had been cancelled, she said, “I am relieved.” Why might Maria be relieved?

      2. Option 2: Have students discern between Examples and Non-Examples.

        1. “If you were nervous singing in front of others, would you feel relieved when the concert was over?” Yes “Why?”

        2. “If you loved singing to audiences, would you feel relieved when the concert was over?” No “Why not?” It was not difficult for you.

      3. Option 3: Have students generate their own examples. “Tell your partner a time when you were relieved.”

      4. Option 4: Provide students with a sentence starter and have them say a complete sentence. Sometimes your mother is relieved. Tell your partner when your mother is relieved. Start your sentence by saying, “My mother is relieved when________.”

  2. Vocabulary Review:

    • Example # 1:

      1. After teaching the group of vocabulary words, review the words using a “word association” activity.

      2. Words written on board or overhead:

enemy, disgusting, invited, relieved

Tell me the word that I am thinking about.

Someone that hates you might be called an ________.

If you didn’t like a food, you might say it is ________.

When a test is over, you often feel _________.

When you are asked to a party, you are _______.”

  • Example # 2: The students all have a page with the vocabulary pictures. The teacher asks questions and the students point to pictures or chorally respond to questions.

  • Example # 3: Example of Independent Activities:

    • Day 1: Write new vocabulary words on vocabulary cards to add to a vocabulary ring or vocabulary card file.

    • Day 2: Write student-friendly definitions on back of vocabulary cards.

    • Day 3: Complete Word Diagram or Four Square Page with 4 new vocabulary words.

    • Day 4: Complete Word Diagram or Four Square Page with 4 new vocabulary words.

    • Day 5: Partner up and test each other on vocabulary definitions (using vocabulary cards students take turns saying the word and the other student gives the student-friendly definition -- or -- one student gives the student-friendly definition and the other student says the word).

Four Square





Word Diagrams





Non- examples

Instructional Routine Checklist – Vocabulary

Did you:

  1. Introduce the word?

  2. Present a student-friendly explanation?

  3. Illustrate the word with examples?

  4. Check students’ understanding?

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