Tip #1 Teach Vocabulary Strategies
Tip #2 Teach Vocabulary Strategies During Guided Reading or Reading Workshop
If we are going to improve student performance, we have got to realize that vocabulary strategies are the next step in teaching reading after word decoding. Think about it. Once students know how to phonetically open each word or use other decoding skills to read known words, the next step to being a good reader is to be able to interpret those unrecognizable words that they now have the ability to sound out. I actually broke the strategies into 24 different ones, so students have a bag of tools to help them crack open those words. These strategies can be taught during guided reading, reading workshop, or other small group activities.
Tip #3 Encourage student to Use Vocabulary Strategies During Independent Reading
Tip #4 Teach More than Just Context Clues
Tip #5 Break Down How to Use Context Clues Step-by-Step
Breaking down how to use the context clues into steps helps students to apply them appropriately. There is more than one type of context clue, and students need time to let each type of context clue sink in and be applied. An example of a strategy that breaks things down is named “The Case of the Appearing Rabbit”. With this strategy, students are taught the strategy, which is, “Poof! It may appear as an example.” Then a tip is given for students to look for specific word clues, such as “for example” and “such as”, that are signals that an example may be present.
Tip #6 Teach Students When to Use Other Resources
It’s important for students to lean in on those context clues first to help improve fluency and to gain more understanding of the word in its actual context. However, sometimes, they will have to break out a dictionary or use an online resource because the context did not offer any clarity to the meaning. When should students turn to other resources to determine the meaning of unknown words? I recommend letting students know to use other resources if they can not find any context clues or if they are still unsure of the meaning of the word.
Tip #7 Use Visual Prompts of the Vocabulary Strategy
Give students visual prompts of the vocabulary strategies. If students only employ vocabulary strategies when they are reading to you, they are not practicing them enough. They need to be using vocabulary strategies when they are doing independent reading. Visuals are great reminders to use the vocabulary strategies, and it also helps make them more concrete to understand.
Students can show how they used a vocabulary strategy with a graphic organizer. Not only does this give some accountability, but it creates an environment for more critical thinking and gives room for the meaning to resonate more with them.
Tip #10 Use Extensions for Discovered Vocabulary Words
Give extension activities for students to apply the words they gleaned from using vocabulary strategies. This way, students can revisit those words later down the road. This actually ties in with tip number nine. You want students reusing those vocabulary words, so have them break out their vocabulary journal for some extension activities.
Tip #11 (Optional) Use Fun Incentives
To keep students motivated with practicing those vocabulary strategies, offer incentives. You know how we all can get off track at times with goals we are working towards, so use a student tracker for them to track and celebrate their progress along the way. Reward them for their accomplishments. Make it a big deal. Incentives need not cost a lot of money. The main ingredient is to make them feel special and to cheer them on. I also like to think this helps students to become mature adults who work toward goals and can self-monitor their progress to stay motivated.
Tip #12 Make it Engaging
Official vocabulary detectives spend their entire lives using vocabulary strategies to break cases of unknown words.
Let’s make it a life long adventure of reading and discovering vocabulary. Unlike direct instruction that is limited to the words being taught, vocabulary strategies transcend into skills that can be used throughout life. These are skills that students can carry from grade to grade, and this will enable students to succeed in leaps and bounds in their educational journey.