Teaching Vocabulary to K-5 English Language Learners

Vocabulary instruction is key for the academic success of all students and is especially need for English Language Learners.  Check out the US Department of Education’s “Doing What Works Site” and their recommendations for vocabulary instruction for English as a second language k-5 learner:

Provide extensive and varied vocabulary instruction throughout the day.

English as a Second Language Students must be taught vocabulary through formal instruction and also provided opportunities to acquire vocabulary through use in language-rich settings in and out of the classroom. Teachers should go beyond the words in reading texts and address the meaning of common words, phrases, and expressions that English language learners have not yet learned.

Core reading programs typically do not include adequate vocabulary instruction for English language learners, so districts and schools need to develop a framework of essential words to be taught explicitly and in-depth. Vocabulary instruction should be emphasized in all parts of the curriculum and include common English words and phrases as well as content words.
  • focuses on a limited number (8-10) of target words each week;
  • provides multiple exposures of target words in varied contexts;
  • uses student-friendly definitions;
  • makes active use of words in meaningful contexts; and
  • includes regular review.

Click here to visit the “Doing What Works Site” for teaching ideas and videos of classrooms using the recommended tools for vocabulary development. 

    Scott Shoemate
    Scott Shoemate



    1 Comment


    November 10, 2012

    I do not believe you teach stdenuts to have conversations. You provide the skills necessary to hold conversations. Ask the right questions to stimulate discussions. Have stdenuts discuss with other stdenuts (one-on-one) or in very small groups. Once stdenuts develop this skill, you can hold class room discussions. What did you want to do last night? What did you do last night? Two rather easy questions (I hope) that illustrate vocabulary. Don’t look for complete sentences in discussions. Allow them to list: went to the park, played soccer, stopped for a soda, watched TV, studied.

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