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Word Feast Elementary
Ages: 7-10   Grades: 2-5

Teach the vocabulary that has the most potential to affect academic performance and expression.  Robust vocabulary instruction builds word-learning strategies and helps students make the new words "their own."


  • Learn vocabulary that expands expression, learning, and reading
  • Connect words with concepts
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Robust vocabulary instruction focuses on the high-frequency words that are most productive for expanding everyday expression, learning, and reading comprehension.  These Tier 2 words, a label coined by Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002:   

  • appear frequently across a variety of subject areas.
  • are not part of students' day-to-day vocabulary.
  • have rich meaning and connections to other words and concepts.
  • add specificity and flexibility to students' expression.
  • easily link to other words students already know.

Two decades of research have shown this instruction method is most effective in advancing students' vocabulary growth (Moore, 2011). 

The substantive, seven page lessons in Word Feast Elementary use a consistent pattern of reading, thinking, and writing exercises.  Each lesson progresses from comprehension to expressive activities and follows this sequence:

  • introduction of new words and teaching tips
  • questions to activate prior knowledge
  • two to four reading passages
  • word definitions with examples
  • associations activity
  • thinking activities like: Finish the Thought, Yes/No Questions, In Your Own Words, Word Webs, Antonyms & Synonyms, Predicting, and more

The age-appropriate chapter topics such as Truth or Myth and Inventions Old and New are mostly curricular.  The chapters progress in difficulty regarding general knowledge, readability, and word knowledge.    


Copyright © 2011

120 pages, answer key
  • Vocabulary knowledge is strongly correlated to reading comprehension proficiency and school achievement.  Children who start school with poorly developed vocabulary skills will, without robust instruction, remain academically behind their peers (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002).
  • Elaboration techniques for teaching vocabulary skills, such as in-depth teaching of words, making connections to background knowledge, and using words in appropriate/inappropriate contexts, improves vocabulary knowledge for students with learning differences (Ellis, 2002).
  • Repeated exposure to vocabulary in a variety of contexts, learning in rich contexts, active engagement in learning tasks, and teaching vocabulary directly and indirectly are methods that improve learning (NRP, 2000).
  • Direct instruction that consists of learning individual words and word-learning strategies is effective for building vocabulary (NIFL, 2001).

Word Feast Elementary incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Ellis, E.S. (2002). The clarifying routine: Elaborating vocabulary instruction. Retrieved from

Moore, D.W. (2011). Robust Vocabulary Instruction. Retrieved from 

National Institute for Literacy (NIFL). (2001). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read (3rd ed.). Retrieved from

National Reading Panel (NRP). (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction—Reports of the subgroups. Retrieved from


Linda Bowers


Linda Bowers, M.A., SLP, is co-owner, co-founder, and researcher for LinguiSystems since 1977.  She loves to cook, travel, and be with friends and family.  She is the proud mother and grandmother of a wonderful daughter and two wickedly funny grandsons.


Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Beck, et al., opened my eyes to a new and lasting vocabulary-teaching model that can work for most, if not all, children.  While our children are language disordered or delayed, that doesn't mean they can't learn new words.  Beck's model shows that they can IF the instruction is divided into three tiers.

  • Tier One Words
    • These are words the student doesn't need to be taught; they're in her personal vocabulary and are words she uses on a daily basis. 
    • This vocabulary is the foundation on which to introduce Tier Two words.
  • Tier Two Words
    • These words appear frequently in a variety of written and oral texts but are not a part of the student's day-to-day vocabulary. 
    • The student is likely to recognize Tier Two words and is usually able to describe what the word means.
  • Tier Three Words
    • Words that are of low frequency or limited to specific domains make up Tier Three words. 
    • Examples might be isotope, cerebellum, and psychogenic.

Word Feast Elementary concentrates on teaching Tier Two words with an occasional Tier Three word introduced, if the context of the lesson warrants its inclusion.  For example, in Lesson 15, The U.S. Constitution, I introduce the word ratify.  While ratify isn't a word we use frequently, its use is germane to the U.S. Constitution, and no other word seemed to be a suitable substitution.


Selecting the Tier Two Words to Teach
I chose the new Tier Two words for each lesson based on the following recommendations from Beck:

  • importance and utility; words that appear frequently across a variety of domains
  • instructional potential; words that have rich meanings and connect the student to other words and concepts
  • conceptual understanding; words that provide specificity and precision of use and are words that students already know

I also included a handful of phrases that added richness to some lessons. These bonus phrases contain Tier Two words.


Learning Tasks
Each lesson contains a consistent pattern of reading and thinking exercises, which enhances learning by removing any question of unpredictability.  The lessons follow this formula (with a few exceptions):

  • Page 1: new words, teaching tips, and activating knowledge
  • Page 2: one or two reading passages
  • Page 3: one or two reading passages
  • Page 4: Definitions
  • Page 5: Making Associations and another thinking activity
  • Page 6: Finish the Thought and another thinking activity
  • Page 7: Antonyms & Synonyms and In Your Own Words

As you can see, the lesson formula gives your student ample practice in investigating and using the new words and bonus phrases.  The lessons also progress from comprehension to expressive activities.


Chapter Progression and Content
I selected chapter topics from grade level-appropriate curricular topics from today's current curricula.  Occasionally, I chose a topic that was appealing to an age group but didn't necessarily have curriculum relevance.  These topics are The Great American Sport (baseball) and Heroes.

Chapters progress in difficulty regarding general knowledge, readability, and word knowledge.  Readability was calculated by substituting a Tier One word for the Tier Two vocabulary word to be taught in each passage.  That gave me a better idea about the readability of the surrounding text.  Readability of the book's passages ranges from 2.4 to 8.


The SLP as Teacher
Although a student may want to read some of the passages in each lesson to herself, it is important that, initially, you read the passages aloud.  Silent reading doesn't allow for the crucial tone-of-voice and prosodic clues as reading aloud does.  Which brings up a good point: when reading aloud to your student, make sure you pour on the emotion; ham it up; over-act.  These cues will help your student get the context of the passage so she can better figure out the words' meanings.

Read each passage all the way through without stopping to explain any of the words or context.  Afterward, ask your student if she'd like you to reread the passage aloud as she reads along silently, or if she'd like to read it to herself.  Either way, allow her to stop and ask questions about the vocabulary and context clues.  Rather than giving her direct answers, ask her questions to allow her to probe the text for clues.  For instance, in Lesson 1, The Black Widow Spider, the first passage introduces the new word, prey, in this sentence: "The black widow spider is hungry.  She looks for prey like flies, mosquitoes, and grasshoppers."  Rather than tell the student what the word prey means, ask her if mosquitoes, flies, and grasshoppers give her any clues.  Are they the spider's friends?  Are they her helpers?  Are they what she catches in her web?  These questions will help your student become an independent questioner for many future words.