Top tips for new word learning

Top tips for new word learning

  • Lots of repetitions of words are important across different contexts
  • Aim to support a deep understanding of a relatively small number of words
  • Explicitly discuss what words mean…
  • …and have opportunities for students to derive meaning from contexts using clues
  • Give multiple opportunities for students to use new words in different contexts
  • Encourage students to say the word often
  • Build a clear representation of a new word by discussing different aspects of it including what it means (semantic), what it sounds like (phonological), how it fits within sentences (grammatical) and how it is written (orthographic)
  • Talk about links with other words that the students already know
  • Develop word learning strategies such as dictionary skills, asking for clarification when a word is not understood and using contexts to figure out words
  • Encourage students to work together to figure out meaning and apply the word to personal contexts
  • Think of new words as ‘tools’ which can be used for specific purposes
Resources for more Top Tips
This book is a great overview of how to teach functional words in schools:

BECK, I., MCKEOWN, M. and KUCAN, L., 2002, Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. (New York: Guilford Publishers).

Principles of word learning is also discussed on the Word Generation website:
There are lots of reviews and journal articles which cover how to teach children and teenagers new words. For example, see:

MARULIS, L. M. and NEUMAN, S. B., 2010, The effects of vocabulary intervention on young children’s word learning: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 80, 300-335.

NAGY, W., and TOWNSEND, D., 2012, Words as tools: Learning academic vocabulary as language acquisition. Reading Research Quarterly, 47, 91-108.

STEELE, S. C., and MILLS, M. T., 2011, Vocabulary intervention for school-age children with language impairment: A review of evidence and good practice. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 27(3), 354-370.