K-12 teachers have a common focus on building students’ literacy, especially, in regards to expanding students’ vocabulary.

This page is dedicated to collecting vocabulary instruction, strategies, tips, and advice from teachers across the world, organizing them under the eight characteristics (derived from Marzano’sBuilding Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement“) of effective vocabulary instruction.  Aspiring and students teachers then can review the submitted strategies and apply them to their own classrooms.

Marzano’s characteristics of effective vocabulary instruction:

Effective vocabulary instruction does not rely on definitions.

Use descriptions composed of everyday language for more effective comprehension and retention.

Effective Vocabulary Strategy – Vocabulary Self-Awareness Chart

Students represent their knowledge of words linguistic and non-linguistic ways.

Comprehension and retention is more effective when language-based and imagery based representations are used during instruction.

Use the Freyer Model

Cartoon Vocabulary and Discussion

Effective vocabulary instruction involves the gradual shaping of word meanings through multiple exposures.

Knowledge deepens over time and requires a variety of opportunities for interacting with targeted vocabulary.  Graphic organizers are a great tool for this.

Smartboard and Word Walls

Continually Test Prior Vocabulary

Students Develop Crossword Puzzles

Teaching word parts enhances students’ understanding of terms.

Increasing knowledge and awareness of the most commonly occurring roots, prefixes, and suffixes helps students to determine the meaning of unknown words.


Students should discuss the terms they are learning.

Oral vocabulary development scaffolds reading and writing vocabulary development.

Cartoon Vocabulary and Discussion

Flash Vocabulary Game

Students should play with words.

Play presents students with manageable challenges, arouses curiosity, and encourages engagement.

Students Develop Crossword Puzzles

Jeopardy Game

P.O.S.E. Game

Vocabulary War

We Want to Learn from You

How do you teach vocabulary?  Please post your instructional strategy as a comment or email it to tips@road2teaching.com

Please check back regularly to view updated posts on our Improving Student Learning through Effective Vocabulary Instruction page.


Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools


Create a Crossword Puzzle On-Line