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Robust AND Efficient Vocabulary Instruction

Hello colleagues, We all know how important vocabulary instruction is. One of the "Four Practical Principles for Enhancing Vocabulary Instruction" from the Reading Rockets website is "Establish Efficient yet Rich Routines for Introducing Target Words." As noted in this blog, "intensive ...vocabulary instruction" takes a lot of time. And instructional time is a precious commodity.

This has certainly been the case in my own practice. I'm yearning to find ways to be more efficient without taking away the richness of the experience for learners..

How do you manage vocabulary instruction, so that it is deeply meaningful but ALSO efficient?

(Check out the blog to read more on this principle and to learn about the other three practical principles)

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP



Amy's picture

Thank you for the link to the Reading Rockets article.  I teach in a prison and generally see each student for about 1-2 hours/week, so most of their vocabulary learning is done on their own with written exercises.  I choose a reading and pull about 10 tier-2 vocabulary words from it, and use the words in about 7-8 different writing exercises before they read the text. My intention is to get the students to use and spell the words as many times as possible in meaningful ways.  However, the exercises are the same every week, and I'd love some new ways for students to practice the vocabulary.  Right now the exercises are: unscrambling vocab. in their original sentence in the reading; word search, matching or crossword puzzle; choosing 4 vocab words and drawing them, and I have to figure out which words they are; writing original sentences; using 6 of the words to make a goofy/serious/other type of writing, such as in lyrics or a short story; using several words in an original "perimeter" poem; making a "double puzzle" from, which ends in a quote from the reading.  Then there are post-reading questions and I encourage students to use the new vocab if they can.  However, I believe my students are getting tired of the same ole exercises and want to spruce it up a bit.  Any ideas?


Amy Frankowski

Penitentiary of New Mexico

Josh Anderson's picture

The depth part outside of class time is the biggest hurdle.  One tool that shows promise is They let you make your own lists and quizzes which are fine, but their dictionary's usage examples from around the internet by topic are really neat:

Here's an example with 'erudite':

On the right side they have usage examples by topic.  Here are 4 examples of erudite in 'Sports' with links to the articles for a broader context (Teach Ctrl + F, so learners can search for the word in articles.