Vocabulary Instruction


Late last school year at a staff meeting, teachers were informed that we were going to be coached and encouraged to introduce more vocabulary instruction to our content areas. In Chemistry I cover a variety of vocabulary, but the amount of vocabulary varies tremendously by unit. Thus, I have not thought to focus on specific methods of instruction. Occasionally I will introduce terms we come across using basic etymology, however, the need for this method is not consistent.


Recently we began Chemical Reactions in my Chemistry 1 and Honors Chemistry 1 classes. Realizing that this would be a great opportunity to devise and demonstrate a new method for teaching vocabulary, I set out to create an anticipatory activity using 2 techniques I had learned about. First, an English teacher at my school who gathered a set of tools for us (Carolyn Moore) provided a resource called “Previewing Content Vocabulary” from Janet Allen’s book “Inside Words” which utilizes a Likert Scale-type system for ranking terms based on familiarity and the ability to use with confidence. I paired this method with a technique from a book I used in graduate school called “50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy” by Fisher, Brozo, Frey, and Ivey. The specific technique I incorporated was “Vocabulary Self-Awareness.” I have provided a copy of my version that I introduced in class; my version utilizes a ranking system and requires students to write their own definition if they ranked the term with high confidence (3 or 4). As we progress throughout the unit, students will be held responsible (and accountable) for filling in actual definitions and examples of each term.


How do you incorporate vocabulary instruction aside from having students write out and/or memorize definitions on their own?