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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Texas Literacy Initiative: Vocabulary Routine

This year, my school has become part of the Texas Literacy Initiative. This is a grant that helps support literacy efforts from ages 0 -18. The focus for 2013-2014 is vocabulary instruction. Our at-risk students come to school with a significantly lower vocabulary knowledge-base than students from other family backgrounds. If we want out students to make it to college (or simply get by in a future workplace), it is imperative that we find effective ways to provide vocabulary instruction. 

I am serving as a pseudo-instructional coach for my school regarding this grant. I have already had the opportunity to attend professional development with state representatives that I am bringing back to my campus for my students and colleagues.

This week, I incorporated the TLI vocabulary routine into my classroom instruction. In the professional development sessions, the routine seemed extremely time-consuming and very dorky. Boy, was I wrong on both counts. The entire routine took no more than ten minutes, and it only lasted that long because the students were so engrossed in what we were doing. 

I conducted the vocabulary routine with the word gripes to accompany a news article. The first group I completed the lesson with was my Pre-AP students. I thought for sure that my group of 29 was going to hate this activity. Wrong! By the time we finished, one of my girls called me over and said, "Are we going to do more words this way? This was fun!" Out of all my students, she was one of the last I expected to hear this from. 

My favorite experience was with my co-teach class, a combination of special education and academic students. My co-teacher and I struggled to pull in the reigns with this group. Not only were they fully engaged with the routine, but they managed to turn it into a song. My classroom was full of singing, dancing, and clapping. How is that for vocabulary instruction?

I honestly thought most kids would know this word, but a quick show of hands throughout all my classes showed the contradictory. I think it is incredibly important to point that out because we often assume that our students know more than they actually do. I am working hard to break that mindset, and this vocabulary routine has provided me with an entertaining avenue to break through to my students. 


  1. What age are your students? Please always indicate this for those outside of the US as we don't necessarily understand US ed jargon.
    I am focusing on vocabulary instruction with my classes and would be interested in checking this out if it is a sustainable way to build vocabulary.

  2. I teach in a school with students ages 12-14.

  3. Do you do a word a day? I like this idea, but how may words at a time do you review?

  4. I only do this as necessary. I try to find one word that encompasses the entire reading passage for the routine. We also do other vocabulary activities. But I do not believe in throwing tons of vocab work at kids simply to say instruction has been covered. All the words wer have studied are on a word wall, and my students use them in writing and speaking without being prompted. Usage is the goal.