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Building Bigger Vocabularies Through Books: Part 2 of 2

Yesterday I posted a document that contained a week-long series of lessons for teaching vocabulary from Willow’s Whispers, a new book by Lana Button and Tania Howells.  Since this type of vocabulary-building teaching was new to me in 2007, I figured it might be new to some of you.  Therefore, I put together an overview of how you can go about selecting and teaching Tier 2 words from a book to your students.

  1. Identify Tier 2 words from the text.
  2. Whittle the list of Tier 2 words down to words you think your students will encounter most often in their reading/will use the most in their writing.  (No more than six words/week.)
  3. Craft definitions of each word you will use.  Make sure the definitions are in your own words, rather than copying them out of a dictionary.  If they’re in your own words, then the terms will be easier for your students to understand.
  4. Write down the sentences, from the text, where each word appeared.
  5. Craft five of your own sentences (one for each day of the week) for each of the week’s vocabulary words.  Change the part of speech or the tense of the verb, if you wish.  Doing this will help your students understand the different ways in which this term can be used.
  6. When you create the first Monday activity, try to keep the words in alphabetical order.  I noticed that keeping the words in the same order I introduced them (which was always alphabetically) to my students helped them recall the meaning of the words during the first activity they did with them.  After that, be sure to mix up the order of the words in the rest of the activities you create.
    • For Conozco/No Conozco you’ll need to create signs for each side of the classroom. (To view the Conozco sign I created, click here.  To view the No Conozco sign I created, click here.)
    • For Sensory Maps and Word Maps, you’ll need to have paper, writing implements, and clipboards ready for student use.  You might want to create the bones of the sheets (e.g., for Word Maps, the parts that have the boxes, the “is” lines, and the “isn’t” lines).
    • “Have You Ever?” encourages students to explain a time they’ve done something.  I usually called upon two different students to explain what they’d done so the rest of the class could hear two different scenarios.  You might want to ask the question “Why?” or “When?” at the end of each “Have you ever…” question you pose.
    • Be sure to have a variety of artistic medium on-hand when you have students “Illustrate a Word.”
  8. As you’re recording the answers to some of the games, you might choose to underline the correct word or put it in parenthesis.  Even though you know the word, a reminder sometimes helps when you’re trying to do the lesson quickly.
  9. Create a blank vocabulary word wall.  Each week, post the words you teach, along with the definitions, each week.



Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

4 thoughts on “Building Bigger Vocabularies Through Books: Part 2 of 2 Leave a comment

  1. Cathy:

    1) I’d buy Beck’s books, which are referenced in the article. Those are the gold-standard when it comes to teaching vocabulary.

    2) The lessons take 10 – 20 minutes on a given day. Obviously the ones that involve the performing or visual arts take longer than the simple games.

    Hope that helps,


  2. Stacey, are there any good books that you would recommend to read on teaching vocabulary. This is an area where I feel kind of weak and I mostly pull vocab words out of their reading (individually) or for the class from books I read aloud, rather than our curriculum books (not the best literature) or the words they say need to be vocab words (I need to get better at that).

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! I’m excited as I phase back in the room to begin some better vocab teaching. Also, about how many minutes does the lessons that you created take and do you do all of them on a given day?


  3. Thank you for these posts about vocabulary. In our early childhood classrooms, building vocabulary through stories is an important piece of early literacy and I am often stuck on how to communicate this with families.


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