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Most educators would agree that vocabulary instruction is important. If pressed, though, few would be able to describe specific attributes of powerful vocabulary instruction. More than that, how can teachers keep learned terms fresh in their students’ minds? What can they do to review vocabulary in meaningful ways?

When many students are assigned vocabulary, they rely heavily on rote memorization. They memorize static definitions with narrow contexts. True word learning, though, involves applying word meanings in a variety of contexts. Remembering definitions is a far cry from incorporating terms into their everyday conversations.

Pulling from literacy researchers and instructional experts, this book explores the five parts of a powerful vocabulary program: prepare, present, place, process, and play. To begin with, teachers must use discretion when choosing words for word study. They prepare their students to deal meaningfully with words when they evaluate potential terms for usefulness and importance.

The second component, present, is what most educators think of when considering vocabulary instruction. How can teachers explain new terms using a variety of methods so that students quickly pick up the meaning of unknown words? The ABCs of Direct Instruction highlight seven ways to teach new words: activate prior knowledge, bases/affixes, context clues, descriptive definitions, examples/non-examples, friendly words/synonyms, and grammar usage.

After initially hearing and reading about new vocabulary, the work shifts to the student. They should work to place new terms within their semantic knowledge systems by using semantic maps and word association. After that, a variety of processing tasks exist for students to explore vocabulary in a variety of contexts. Both basic and complex processing tasks that cover the four major learning styles should be harnessed to deepen knowledge.

Finally, word play is an overlooked but essential part of wrestling with words. Instead of making vocabulary tedious, it should be viewed as engaging and enjoyable. The final chapter of the book looks at various daily schedules to make sure that vocabulary instruction is both manageable and meaningful. 

If you would like to read a few sample chapters of the book, download a PDF using the following links. The sample includes:

If you like what you read, buy the book! This sample shares two parts of a powerful program (present and place) and only a part of a third (process). See the table of contents below to learn more about what the book has to say about the five parts of a powerful vocabulary program.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Power of Words
  • Incidental Word Learning
  • A Well-Rounded Program
    • Wide Reading
    • Word Learning Strategies
    • Word Consciousness
    • Direct Instruction
Chapter 2: Preparing for Vocabulary Instruction
  • Teacher Choice
  • Student Choice
  • Vignette
Chapter 3: Presenting New Words
  • The ABCs of Direct Vocabulary Instruction
    • Activate Prior Knowledge
    • Bases/Affixes
    • Context Clues
    • Descriptive Definition
    • Examples/Non-examples
    • Friendly Words/Synonyms
    • Grammar Usage
  • Vignette
Chapter 4: Placing Words in Context
  • Activating Prior Knowledge
    • Word Association
    • Three Strikes and You’re Down
  • Semantic Maps
    • Synonym Web
    • Synonym/Antonym Continuum
    • Concept of Definition Map
    • Hierarchical Map
    • Root Map
Chapter 5: Basic Processing Tasks (Mastery/Understanding)
  • Mastery Processing Tasks
    • Questioning
    • Sentence Completion
    • Frayer Model
  • Understanding Processing Tasks
    • Solving Analogies
    • Synonym Feature Analysis
Chapter 6: Basic Processing Tasks (Interpersonal/Self-Expressive)
  • Interpersonal Processing Tasks
    • Think-Pair-Square
    • Inside/Outside Circle
    • Roundtable
  • Self-Expressive Processing Tasks
    • Free Association
    • Keyword Method
    • Opinion Corners
Chapter 7: Complex Processing Tasks
  • Response Stems
  • Acrostics
  • Creating Analogies
  • Writing
    • Free Writing
    • Structured Writing
    • Visual Writing
Chapter 8: Playing with Words
  • Benefits of Word Play
  • Word Games
    • Charades
    • Draw Me
    • Talk a Mile a Minute
    • Card Games
    • Word Scrambles/Jumbles
    • Synonym Strings
    • Word Riddles
    • Categories
    • Word Fluency
Chapter 9: Putting the Parts Together
  • Grading
  • Scheduling
    • Primary Grades
    • Sample Schedules
  • Vocabulary Selection
  • Direct Vocabulary Instruction
  • Memory and Motivation

If schools were permitted to have just one training, this is the one!

This training will help to raise test scores for your students, decrease discipline challenges, and improve classroom rapport. You will learn how to meet students where they are and lead them where they need to be, capture attention, and promote deeper learning.

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