Score Yourself! Are You Teaching Conversational Vocabulary According to Research?

A couple of weeks ago, many of you visited our Academic Vocabulary Quiz page to find out how you were doing in teaching academic vocabulary according to rigorous research.  Today, you can take a new quiz to see if you are teaching conversational vocabulary (common, everyday words and phrases that native speakers of English already know) according to research. 

Take the quiz:  Are you or the teachers you supervise using research-based strategies to teach conversational vocabulary to English Learners?  Give 3 points if your answer is "always"; 2 points if your answer is "sometimes"; and 1 point if your answer is "rarely or not at all".  Add up your total.


27-24 points Congratulations!  Your recognize that your English Learners need support to understand all vocabulary they encounter all day long.  You use a variety of strategies that help ELs comprehend common vocabulary and phrases so that they can catch up with their English speaking peers.  There may be a couple of areas where you could use some new ideas to keep conversational vocabulary learning fresh, but overall, your instruction is research-based!

23-18 points You are giving your ELs the opportunity to practice with common English vocabulary and phrases, but inconsistently.  Try to have set routines where ELs and native English speakers get to practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing the conversational vocabulary that you use in the classroom every day.  For example, make sure that word wall you put up at the beginning of the school year is a living wall that students add to and refer to throughout the day.

17-9 points You need to give your English Learners lots of opportunities to practice common everyday words and phrases so that they can catch up with their native English speaking peers.  Think about ways that you can give your ELs meaningful practice with conversation, reading, and writing.  Browse our teaching tips by key words like conversation and discussion. Think: role plays, interviews, modelling discussion, and dialogue journals.



Rarely or Not At All
Suggested Teaching Tip
Suggested Materials
I analyze my instructional materials in reading and the content areas for frequently used common words or phrases that English learners may not know.

Previewing Vocabulary
I collaborate with the ESL staff in teaching common words.  For example, the ESL teacher may pre-teach words and/or provide additional practice in common words that appear in my instruction. Or, the ESL teacher or a paraprofessional may work intensively with non-English-speaking children when they are newly arrived to jump start their development of everyday English words.

Charades for Key Vocabulary
My classroom environment reinforces common words that we use in activities everyday. For example, classroom objects are labeled and schedules related to classroom routines are posted. I practice these words with English learners as we go through our daily routines.

Our Opinions Word Wall
I have resources supporting development of common words and phrases that students can use for reference or practice: for example, picture cards organized by topic (e.g., family, sports, foods, etc) words on large binder rings, or word walls.

Personal Dictionary
I pair children to practice common vocabulary as a quick activity whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Phone Conversations
When reading with students, I quickly clarify the meanings of words by pointing to pictures or acting out word meaning.

Shelter Your Speech
I provide quick translations of common words that are essential to understanding meaning in context.

Giving Clear Directions
Oxford Picture Dictionaries
My classroom contains books and games that practice common words.

Roll A Sentence

I have access to computer assisted instruction that develops basic English skills.

Shared Story Ball

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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