Tier 2 Vocabulary Routines

Goodbye, balanced literacy!  Hello science of reading!

A huge part of the science of reading research supports explicitly teaching comprehension through read alouds in the early elementary years.  That includes direct vocabulary instruction.  

higher vocabulary = higher reading comprehension

That's my why.  Now, let's talk about the routines I've used in K-2 for explicitly teaching tier 2 vocabulary words with trade books.

What Are Tier 2 Vocabulary Words?

Tier 2 words are the colorful words authors use to craft and enhance their stories.  They are words like beckon, cheerfully, soar, etc...

They are NOT sight words or high frequency words.  Those are tier 1 words.  These are less frequent and sometimes called WOW words in my classroom because their better choices than your basic words.

They are also NOT academic vocabulary words.  Those are tier 3 words.

Which Words Should I Teach?

Research through the science of reading teaches us that vocabulary words should be taught in context, not in isolation.  And anytime you can give multiple definitions for words, you will always get a higher return on your teaching investment.  

I always use trade books to teach vocabulary words.  Sometimes I only use that book for the vocabulary words.  Other times, I use the book on Mondays for vocabulary and we reread the book the next day to work on different comprehension skills.

Do you have time for a sad story?  If not... no worries.  Just skip on to the next section! :)

When I first started teaching 15 years ago, I went to a balanced literacy training to get "certified" to teach balanced literacy.  We did a day on vocab instruction and they actually gave us a huge list of trade books and tier 2 words to teach with each book.  I loved the idea.  Prepped everything to teach year after year by laminating covers and words on sentence strips (Hey, there, 2006!) and was good to go. 

And then as balanced literacy goes, there was very little time for whole group reading comprehension instruction outside of shared reading.  So, with what little read aloud time I had... vocabulary got the boot.  :(  Fast forward several years when I moved schools and I got rid of those sentence strip words I barely used and also tossed THE LIST OF BOOKS AND TIER 2 WORDS!  I'd never need that again, right?

I'm sure you know what happens next.  The last few years, I've been going through our state training with the science of reading and now have time to explicitly teach vocabulary.  And, of course, when I went hunting for that awesome list, it was no where.  BOOOOO!  I'd give anything to have that list back as a good starting point for teaching my 2nd grade vocabulary this year, but oh well.  We'll be starting from scratch.

I'll be using the trade books I select for each week and pulling out words to explicitly teach--without a premade list! :)

Before Reading Routines

Before reading the trade book, we go over our vocabulary words.  15 years ago, this looked like me holding up the sentence strip and introducing the word, definition, and a student action for kids to act out the word.

The past few years, it's looked a little different.  I use a slide show.  

I introduce the word, read the definition, explain it by using it in a sentence, and teach the kids a motion to go with the words.  I love using Total Physical Response wherever I can, and this is the perfect way to use it and have kids show you the motion as you read the story.

After we introduce the word, the next slide has kids choose between 2 or 3 photos and tell which photo best describes the word.  We move the object to the photo to show which photo displays the word meaning.

We go through each of the words this way.  Then, we go through the interactive activities together.  These can include matching words to photos, matching vocab to synonym words, or choosing vocabulary words to label a specific photo.  (We usually do these whole group, but this would work well in Google Classroom for distance learning also!)

During Reading Routines

Now we are ready to READ!  I read aloud each vocabulary word and the kids quickly show me each motion as a quick review.  Then I say, "Let's read the story and listen for our WOW Words.  When you hear one, let me know by quietly showing me the motion for that word!"

As we read and come to the word, students give me the motion.  We stop at that sentence, reread how the author used the word and discuss the meaning and any nuances of the meaning from within the context of the text compared to the definitions we learned in the slideshow.

After Reading Routines

Once we finish the story, we don't discuss much of the story... I usually save that for another day so the focus stays on the tier 2 vocabulary words.  

Kids will respond to the vocabulary words used in the story.  Sometimes, they just respond by choosing 2-3 of the words to write their own sentence for and illustrate.  Other times, they match synonyms, label photos and write and illustrate just one vocabulary sentence.

Traditionally, they do this using a paper copy, but it's also super simple to do in Google Slides as well!

Where Can I Find the Materials?

I've just started a new line of Tier 2 vocabulary activities to coordinate with trade books.  You can find the first one here.  And make sure you follow me on TpT to be the first to know when I release the growing bundle at a steep discount!

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