Chapter 8

One thing that has been noticed is that our learners are lacking vocabulary. It does hamper learning. The section that the Authors discussed on "Word Detectives" brings to mind that learners do not know what they do not know! Helping learners to realize that there are times to skip over words and other times to understand that the word definition is important to understanding of the reading passage. Giving learners the skills and practice to make conscious decisions will help them to both develop vocabulary and understanding of what they are reading. The " read  past" words can make a difference to understanding what is being read. 

The ideas discussed in this book brings to mind all of the steps necessary for success. It reminds me when my nephew was learning to sit - there are many things we do without thinking about it. These steps are necessary to being able to go from lying down to sitting up. Readers are facing many of the same obstacles - many times they are not aware of what good readers are doing and what they need to do to become a good reader. Helping learners by helping them to practice these steps will work and it takes a conscious effort of both the " teacher" and the learner for success to occur!


Hi Lynn, Thanks for bringing up how important vocabulary is to reading comprehension. Teachers need to help students to become independent learners of vocabulary. Becoming "word detectives" is a great strategy toward this goal. We also need to teach certain words explicitly and give students lots of practice using those words in meaningful interactions with one another.

I am especially interested in vocabulary, so I have a several questions about how teachers approach vocabulary instruction. How do members choose vocabulary to focus on for explicit instruction? What vocabulary teaching strategies have you found helpful? What process do you use to help learners guess meaning from context? Does anyone use a web app like

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP


These are all great questions--my vocabulary teaching is a work in progress, but I try to keep in mind two things: that learners already have a cognitive web of words and their associations that can be built upon (including from other languages), and multiple exposures and uses in context are key to meaningful vocab retention. I can see the word detective practices mentioned in our book becoming the next piece in my growing philosophy. I was especially impressed with "Classroom Close-Up 8.2" on pp. 270-271, where the teacher guides her students through increasingly deep discussion and use of the word/concept of justification. I kept thinking, "wow, I want my lessons to be this cool!"

My favorite web tools for vocab with ELLs have been Lexipedia (,which webs similar words; Wordnik (, which represents words by definition, in context, through visuals, and in other ways; and for more advanced students the Corpus of Contemporary American English ( The web tools are pretty fun, but I think they are best supported by the kinds of classroom practices in our book.  


Hi Jen and all, If we are devoted to reflecting on our practice, then I think we can all say that our teaching is a "work in progress" i.e., there is always room for improvement!

Just today, I heard a K12 teacher share an anecdote from her classroom about teaching vocabulary. She decided to let the students identify the words they didn't know and then as a group prioritize which words they wanted to study. She said this has made a huge impact on the motivation of her students to learn words compared to when she simply taught the words that were bolded in the text, which it turns out -- according to this teacher -- the students already knew.

Involving students in this way seems like a good idea to me. At the same time, I think the teacher needs to guide the final selection of vocabulary to be sure the words are general utility words, i.e., words that are not only important to understanding the text but also that students will encounter the words over and over.

We have so little time, and there are oh so many words! Prioritizing the most important words is essential. It would be great to hear more about how members decide which words to focus on for explicit instruction.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP