The Only Vocabulary Graphic Organizer You WIll Need

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This is the vocabulary graphic organizer you need to be using in your classroom - simple and highly effective for any subject and grade level.

Kids usually don't need instruction in Tier 1 vocabulary. This is their everyday language that they use with each other in social settings.  It is part of receptive vocabulary as discussed here.

Most vocabulary deficits show up in Tiers 2 and 3, especially with students who are from impoverished backgrounds.  This often occurs when we are trying move students too quickly through receptive learning into the productive stage.

vocabulary graphic organizer for elementary studentsHow to Use a V V W A Graphic Organizer
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Tier 2 and Tier 3 words are ones that students do not use in everyday conversation and they are often subject specific.  

Kids who don't have a rich literacy background are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to using and understanding higher order words in text and conversations.  

Once teachers understand the Tiers and have identified words they need to teach directly, it's time to give the kids some type of organizer to aid their thinking.


We always seem to have lots of options, don't we?   But you only need one.

The best one is... a simple Verbal and Visual Word Association chart (V V W A).


The V V W A Vocabulary Graphic Organizer

 Tier Two Vocabulary

The V V W A Organizer (Eeds & Cockrum, 1985) is used primarily for building academic vocabulary. 

It has been widely used in all grade levels and is recognized as being particularly effective with low achievers, at-risk students, and English language learners.  That would be a large portion of many classrooms!

Normally this organizer has a 4th box that is called Personal Association or Characteristics.  This doesn't work for my students because those terms, in and of themselves, can be very confusing.

I have found much more success with teaching my students how to make connections. This is something we do all the time during reading (of any subject) and it naturally flows to the V V W A Chart.

You can see where I changed it by looking at the red arrow below - the students made either Text to Self or Text to World connections, just like we do during guided reading groups.

By the way, this is from one of my second grade students at Thanksgiving time!


academic vocabualry, graphic organizer
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Tier Three Vocabulary

I used the V V W A organizer above as a foundation for my vocabulary lesson plan about the first Thanksgiving.

Even though I teach primary education, the students are always interested in learning a bit of history and understanding how our holidays came about.

To me, any study of the Pilgrims begins with an important word: "separatist."

I chose this word because it is essential to making sense of why the Pilgrims left England in the first place. The students were entranced by the story, and the very idea of a group of people separating themselves from something was interesting to them.

The idea of separating from a church is foreign to many of my students, but they easily connected to the idea of leaving something behind. They wrote their own definition of what a separatist is, drew it, and made a personal connection.

Do my 7 year olds remember this word now? You better believe it.

(It probably also helped that I used Barbie dolls with detachable heads to show what could happen to the separatists if they didn't leave England and flee to Holland. Hey, whatever it takes, right?)


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