Increasing the amount of students’ reading of a variety of texts is the single
most important thing a teacher can do to promote large-scale vocabulary growth. Explicit vocabulary instruction is necessary
when context does not provide essential information. Effective vocabulary instruction integrates key vocabulary across content
areas into daily use, providing opportunities for repetition and meaningful use.
The role of the teacher is:
• To differentiate between unknown vocabulary in context that impacts meaning
(key concept vocabulary) and unknown vocabulary that does not impact meaning.
• To provide explicit instruction for key vocabulary using mapping, webbing,
and other graphic organizers to show word relationships and explore word meanings.
• To provide an environment that promotes understanding of differences
and connections among spelling and vocabulary.
• To pre-teach content area vocabulary words necessary to facilitate comprehension.
• To provide students with multiple exposures to new and known vocabulary
orally and in writing.
• To provide students with opportunities to see, hear, write, and use new
• To provide students with frequent and meaningful contact with the same
• To provide varied and on-going assessments appropriate to the instructional
goals and needs of the students.
• To provide extensive daily opportunities for students to read text at
their independent level.
• To provide explicit instruction by modeling the strategies that will
enable students to identify and learn new words; then to gradually release responsibility until students are able to use the
The role of the student is:
• To actively listen and participate as the teacher models the learning
• To practice and apply the strategies in multiple learning situations
and across content areas.
• To be able to identify unknown words by using appropriate strategies
to access meaning.
• To use maps, webs, and other graphic organizers to show understanding
of vocabulary relationships.
• To integrate knowledge of vocabulary in fluent reading and in oral and
in written communication.
• To perform the learning task—at first, with assistance from the
teacher; then gradually assuming the responsibility for performing the task independently.
The observer will see:
• A print-rich environment which includes labels, learned concepts, procedural
guides, word walls, and authentic, current student work on display.
• An ample classroom library, a collection of content-specific books, and
a variety of other print materials at appropriate independent and instructional levels of the students.
• Explicit instruction on key content area vocabulary using mapping, webbing,
and other graphic organizers to show word relationships and meaning.
• Varied and on-going assessments appropriate to the instructional goals
and needs of the students.
• The teacher providing explicit instruction with unknown words in context;
then gradually releasing responsibility to the students to identify and learn new vocabulary independently.
• The students integrating their knowledge of vocabulary in fluent reading
and in oral and written communication.
Allen, J. (1999). Words, words, words: Teaching vocabulary in grades 4-12. York, ME: Stenhouse
Blachowicz, C., & Ogle, D. (2001). Reading comprehension: Strategies for independent learners. New York: The Guilford Press.
Buehl, D. (2001). Classroom strategies for interactive learners. (2nd ed.).
Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Lipson, M., & Wixson, M. (2003). Assessment and instruction of reading and writing difficulty: An interactive
approach. (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Pinnell, G., & Fountas, I. (1998). Word matters: Teaching phonics and spelling in the reading and writing
classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Systematic word study. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2004, from the Illinois State Board of Education Principal’s
Flip Chart for Reading Web site: http://www.illinoisreads.net/htmls/kit_prin_system_wordstudy.html
CPS Grades 4-8 Literacy Observation Guidelines 21