Teacher Student dialogue for introducing new vocabulary


I find myself thinking about vocabulary acquisition a lot. Word learning strategies, tier II vocabulary, high frequency words, ideas for vocabulary resources, and effective means of improving vocabulary skills in young minds fill my head on the daily. It doesn’t help that the internet has so much fascinating information related to…well, everything. I typically find myself going down the web rabbit holes of information about vocabulary skills and my favorite organ – THE BRAIN. It’s easy for me to get lost in all the articles, blog posts and research about how we learn, classify, memorize, process language, comprehend, make associations, apply mindfulness and awareness, gain emotional intelligence, and the list goes on. It’s not uncommon for me to look up from my computer or device and realize that cooking and errands have not been done, I haven’t crossed anything off of my “TO DO” list, and have a few minutes left to get to the bus stop and pick up my son from school.

My fascination with the brain, learning, vocabulary and the desire to share and connect around these topics to help children thrive are why this blog exists.  It is only natural that all the information I continue to acquire coupled with what I have learned while working as a speech and language therapist, as well as my full-time job of called “mom” should make its way to the webpages of this blog. But the information keeps coming! So I decided to have mini posts when I want to share a small idea, strategy, or research highlight related to vocabulary or learning. It will be called “A Dab of Vocab” and you can find it in the navigation menu under the “In Your Classroom” menu button. I thought “A Dab of Vocab” was a fitting name because, a dab here, a dab there, and you slowly begin to see the whole picture. I view vocabulary, and really all forms of knowledge, in the same way. A piece of information here, an article there, and before you know it, it all adds up to a great body of vocabulary knowledge, technical knowledge, or life knowledge.

On one of my vocabulary research escapades I came across this teaching strategy in a document on the Colorado Department of Education website. It is a strategy for introducing and teaching a new vocabulary words. It seems to be geared to the lower grades, as I can see the number of eye rolls and death stares a teacher or speech-language therapist may get for attempting this with a bunch of middle- and high-school students. It follows the effective “I do, we do, you do” model for the gradual release of responsibility. It also allows for a few exposures to the word in slightly different contexts (auditory, partner activity, writing). If you haven’t already, I recommend heading over to my post on teaching vocabulary effectively, where I offer many strategies for teaching vocabulary to students. In the post I write about how multiple exposures to a word in various contexts and over a period of time is a highly effective way to get students retaining vocabulary terms, and this script definitely counts as a few exposures.

We ideally want exposures to the new word(s) to be over an extended period of time to allow for optimal learning (and later application) of new vocabulary. You can use this script to refresh students’ memories by facilitating recall of the words they have already been taught and learned by using it throughout various points in the week/month/year. I am including an example in the second table below.

I adapted the dialogue with the word “approach.”

Shorter variation for circling back to vocabulary words previously learned. Depending on the situation, you may want to preface it with mentioning that some time ago you had learned a specific word or words and want to review with the student(s).

P.S. It’s possible that some or many students will not remember the definition of the word you are asking them to recall, especially if you’re circling back to it after a few weeks. If this happens, simply remind them what the word means and begin the dialogue (Ex. “Approach means to come near. What does ‘approach’ mean?”).

Have you used this in your classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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