Definition: The storehouse of words a given student knows. Vocabulary has both print and speech forms: oral vocabulary refers to words that we use in speaking or recognize in listening; our reading vocabulary consists of words we recognize or use in print.

Why it matters: Young readers must know the meaning of most of the words in a text before they can understand what they are reading. As more word definitions become firmly stored in children's memories, they gain fluency and automaticity in word recognition and their comprehension goes up dramatically.

Demonstrates the Frayer Model, a tool that provides a structure for explicitly teaching new words. The tool includes child-friendly definitions, characteristics, examples, and non-examples.

Uses a word wall in the classroom that includes high-frequency sight words for grades three and four. Students can refer to the displayed word wall during guided reading and other classroom activities.

Gives a two-minute tutorial presenting concrete ideas on teaching children new words while having fun in the process. Offers a reading specialist's perspective on reading strategies.

Reading Rockets >

Provides an overview for vocabulary development. Surveys research, includes parent resources, and classroom strategies for teachers. Suggestions are given for building academic vocabulary.

Kimberly Tyson >

Introduces tiered vocabulary instruction, distinguishing between Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 words. Cites Marzano's six-step vocabulary process and provides a link to 21 digital instructional tools.

K12 Reader >

Offers methods for explicit and implicit vocabulary instruction. Encourages teachers to teach words explicitly and to foster students' ability to use context clues to determine word meanings.

Reading Rockets >

Informs teachers of tips they can give parents for building vocabulary at home. For instance, asking students to develop their own examples related to a new word deepens understanding.

Teach Hub >

Highlights five engaging strategies for vocabulary instruction. Examples include semantic maps and concept cubes. Argues for active learning and multiple exposures to new words.

Mad Libs features 21 free Mad Libs stories that prompt users to consider parts of speech while selecting words. Readers create, laugh, and learn while selecting vocabulary within a given story context.

Flocabulary uses hip-hop music to make vocabulary development fun. K-12 students build subject-specific academic vocabulary with the natural tools of music such as beat, rhythm, and rhyme.

Vocabulary Research Meets the Classroom
M. Berg and S. Buckerfield

Includes research articles with practical classroom implications for vocabulary instruction. Features evidence-based instructional strategies for English learners and outlines assessment data use.

Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Childhood Classroom
S. Neuman and T. Wright

Discusses vocabulary gaps across socioeconomic groups. Debunks some myths about vocabulary development and indicates students need planned, sequenced, and systematic vocabulary instruction.

Effective Vocabulary Instruction
J. Sedita

Discusses the relationship between vocabulary and the other four literacy pillars. Offers strategies for effective dictionary use and using morphology to break down word structure.

The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3 
B. Hart and T. Risley

Contextualizes vocabulary acquisition across income groups. Discusses the alarming impact that poverty can have on students' vocabulary "banks," resulting in a need for early intervention.

Narrowing the Language Gap: The Case for Explicit Vocabulary Instruction
K. Feldman and K. Kinsella

Proposes a comprehensive model for building vocabulary. Suggests wide reading of fiction/ nonfiction, direct teaching of words and independent strategies, and fostering "word consciousness."

Bringing Words to Life: Robust vocabulary Instruction
I. Beck, M. McKeown, & L. Kucan

Outlines best practices for primary/ secondary levels, including ways to build content area vocabulary and teach multiple-meaning words. Includes sample lessons and end-of-chapter summaries.

100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know
Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries

Showcases 100 words with kid-friendly definitions, origins, and pronunciations. Each word appears with at least one passage from authentic literature, including classic and modern YA books.


Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Berg, M., & Buckerfield, S.T. (Eds). (2015). Vocabulary research meets the classroom. Perspectives on Language and Literacy, 41(3). 

Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries. (2010). 100 words every middle schooler should know. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Feldman, K. & Kinsella, K. (2005). Narrowing the language gap: The case for explicit vocabulary instruction. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc. 

Hart, B. & Risley, T. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3.  American Educator, 27(1), 4–9. 

Neuman, S. & Wright, T. (2014). The magic of words: Teaching vocabulary in the early childhood classroom. American Educator, 38(2), 4-13. 

Sedita, J. (2005). Effective vocabulary instruction. Insights on Learning Disabilities, 2(1), 33-45.