Vocabulary Strategies

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.4 & CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.4

When I was an ELL pull out teacher, I would pre-teach the vocabulary for the amazing words (difficult vocabulary) for the Reading Street series a week ahead of the classroom teachers. We have found that when students are in their regular education classroom, they are more confident and more willing to participate after we front load the vocabulary. These strategies meet the CCSS listed above.

Visuals are so important when introducing academic vocabulary. For reading, I post vocabulary cards on my board that relate to the unit we are studying. I also include visual vocabulary cards in my centers, so the students can use the vocabulary words during play. 



Students can help you to fill out the graphic organizer. You can give the students each a Post-it where they have to answer the big idea using academic vocabulary they have learned. They can draw a picture and write the word.

Graphic Organizers

 1) The teacher poses an open ended question

2) Then the teacher gives the students an opportunity to think about their answers.

3) Students sit with their partner (knee to knee) and whisper their answer to their partner.

4) Students share with the class what they discusses with their partner

ELL TIP: when returning to whole, I always say "You can share your response or your partner's response".  This will help students who feel timid about speaking in front of others, they might be more comfortable repeating what their partner said. This will still allow them the opportunity to still participate in the large group discussion.


Same idea as Circle within a Circle except I have found younger students have difficulty standing in a circle so I have them stand in two lines facing each other.


Important Note: You can either have the partners be completely random or you can have the students who have a strong academic language in one circle and the students who struggle with academic language in the other circle that way it is insured that the students who struggle will be exposed to good models of speaking.

Line It Up


One SIOP strategy for challenging vocabulary is 4 Square vocabulary, where the students write the word, then draw a picture, then write a definition in their own words and finally write the word in a sentence. I created 2 square and 3 square worksheets for younger students in order to differentiate depending on their level. This strategy is not only great for ELLs but all students

Frayer Model 

two funny shoolchildren talking on self-

The teacher will provide the sentence frame: __________ and _________ go together because_______________.


The students will pick two vocabulary words being studied that week and use the sentence frame to justify why they go together. Students will give a variety of reasons the important thing is that they can justify their answers and show accurate understanding of the vocabulary words.


For example: "Jetway" and "plane" go together because you need to walk on the jetway to get to the plane.

Connect Two

Circle within a Circle:

-half of your students form a circle with the students facing out and their backs facing into the circle (This is the inside circle)

- Then the other half of the class make a bigger (the outside circle) facing their classmates who formed the inside circle

-Whoever they are standing across is their partner,

-The teacher will pose a question 

Option 1: The teacher can say the inside circle will talk first and the outside circle will listen only then the outside circle will have a chance to respond while the inside partner listens.

Option 2: Let the partners talk freely responding to the question remind students to use a whisper voice

-Then the teacher will pick one of the circles (either the outside or inside circle) to rotate one person and now they have a new partner to discuss the same question or a different question

Circle Within A Circle

Students at a school in Indonesia using this strategies.

Photo credit:  FitrianyGustariny.com

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