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Tool 5: Vocabulary – The Blueprint of a Word


  • Bring a richer and deeper thinking about vocabulary to their classroom instruction
  • Plan vocabulary lessons that teach words explicitly
  • Plan multiple opportunities into the school day to expand student vocabularies through implicit instruction
  • Increase their own and students’ awareness of and interest in words

  • Part 1 - Introduction: Vocabulary – The Blueprint of a Word

    Topic 1: Words are Music

    • Words have a musical quality about them. In addition, each word has a dynamic design. A word develops a unique design over time, its own structure and shared structures with context and other words.

    Topic 2: The Mental Lexicon

    • This section initiates the discussion about vocabulary and what it really means to know a word.
    • When we learn words, we don’t fill all the rooms for a word through one exposure, in one lesson, or by simply learning the definition of a word.

  • Part 2 - Vocabulary – The Research

    A lot of research has been done to help teachers understand the relationship between vocabulary and comprehension and how we learn vocabulary. Part 2 focuses on the most relevant research findings for why we teach vocabulary and methods for how best to teach it.

    Topic 1: Breadth and Depth of Word Knowledge

    • Teachers will learn about the levels of word knowledge and the roles of breadth and depth of word knowledge in reading comprehension.

    Topic 2: Lexical Quality of Word Knowledge

    • Lexical quality refers to the quality of our knowledge about words. This section explores lexical quality which includes knowledge of word meaning and its word form, meaning its orthography and phonology.
    • Vocabulary is considered through a study of the Reading Rope.

    Topic 3: Morphology

    • The lexical quality of words includes knowing words’ forms. This includes the morphology of words, and how they relate to other words that share the same or different meaningful parts.

  • Part 3 - Practice – Vocabulary Lessons

    Teachers view several classroom videos demonstrating a glimpse into ways of teaching vocabulary that potentially builds high levels of lexical quality for students.

    Topic 1: Download the Video Lesson Activity Booklet

    • As with all of the Tools, there is a classroom activity booklet that provides complete descriptions of the lessons shown in the videos. Additional teaching ideas are included.

    Topic 2: The Vocabulary Lesson – Choosing Words to Teach

    • Choosing the words to teach in the first step in any vocabulary lesson. Topic 2 helps teachers understand how to choose the best words to teach and then ways to teach those words.

    Topic 3: The Vocabulary Lesson – How to Teach

    There are many methods for teaching vocabulary. This topic presents a few important teaching and learning elements for teachers to include in their lesson planning.

  • Part 4 - Planning

    The planning section of Tool 5 guides teachers through two approaches to planning vocabulary instruction – implicit instruction and explicit instruction. A vocabulary lesson structure is introduced to teachers that incorporates the many vocabulary elements discussed in the Tool.

  • Part 5 - Wrap Up

    Topic 1: Summary

    A summary of the blueprint of a word is provided along with reminders of the many elements that make up words and that teachers need to be aware of when planning their vocabulary lessons.

    Topic 2: Video – Conversation with an Expert