What Highly Effective Teachers Do During Vocabulary Instruction

Pearl Dean Garden, Early Learning Instructional Specialist

McGraw-Hill
Jul 15 · 3 min read

As an instructional specialist, I work with teachers daily. I synthesize what I am learning in coursework to use in daily practice and continually think of my research topic and how I can make my work and course work meld together. I want to tell the story of educators while being educated myself. I choose to research teacher practices when they are teaching vocabulary because of my student demographic. I am interested in vocabulary instruction because as a classroom teacher even my best students struggled with vocabulary.

I honestly believe that what I see the “highly-effective” educators do quite effortlessly when they teach vocabulary can help every teacher. As a result, I am always watching what the highly effective teacher.

So, I become a teacher-researcher-coach as I work with my teachers. I observed a few “highly effective” educators. I have trained my teachers on research-based best practices in vocabulary instruction and given them a few suggestions on how to incorporate vocabulary instruction in their school day. I presented them with this question: What would happen if you were intentional with your vocabulary instruction? Since that training, they have answered that question with things like:

Have a word for the week that they use throughout the day and add to the word wall for review

Use academic language in their teaching across all contents

Choose to read books with rich new vocabulary words to their students

Write new words on index cards to add to their word walls and follow-up with the kids later to see that they remember those words and can tell anyone what they mean

Use technology to show visuals of new words when appropriate

Their students are learning new words and are retaining them to use in their reading, writing, and speaking. The teachers are answering that (what would happen if) question by showing me what their students know. Their own teacher efficacy is growing both individually and collectively, and they are learning their craft. Each of them is a teacher leader and have earned that title because of all the hard work they do for those children every day.


Pearl Garden is a 20-year educator with Dallas ISD, an adjunct professor at Paul Quinn College, and a doctorate student blogging her ideas on teaching, learning, and highly effective vocabulary instruction.


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To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

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Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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