35 Strategies for Developing Content Area Vocabulary

Allyn & Bacon
Brenda H. Spencer / Andrea M. Guillaume  
Total pages
September 2008
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Whether working with students in an upper elementary, middle school or high school classroom, teachers are responsible for helping students explore the complexities of vocabulary instruction. 35 Strategies for Developing Content Area Vocabulary offers teachers in grades 4-12 concrete directives for addressing vocabulary instruction in content area lessons. The authors categorize their strategy presentation in four explicit ways: preparing to learn words, building word knowledge, applying word knowledge, and encouraging word learning.  Teachers utilizing these strategies will become more precise in their instruction and better meet the needs of ALL their students (including English learners) because student achievement is dependent on their mastery of the specialized vocabulary related to various content area disciplines and are highly correlated to their reading comprehension.


  • Four principles provide the foundation of vocabulary instruction. These principles include setting up a language-rich classroom; introducing words using a variety of instructional approaches;  exposing students to many words and the use of words; and fostering independent word learning via motivation, metacognition and vocabulary strategies.
  • A framework for learning words including preparing to learn words, building word knowledge and applying word knowledge.
  • The purpose of each strategy is described for text users and a matrix indicates what function the strategy serves.
  • Procedural steps including getting ready for the lesson and in-class procedures.
  • Modifications, trouble shooting and next steps conclude each strategy.

Table of Contents




1.  Concept of Definition Word Map

2.  Possible Sentences

3.  Frayer Model    

4.  Semantic Feature Analysis

5.  Sketch to Stretch    

6.  Ten Most Important Words 

7.  Semantic Maps

8.  Vocabulary Knowledge Ratings

9.  Concept Guide

10. Vocab Cards

11. Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy (VSS)

12. Semantic Gradients

13. Word Decisions

14. Word Chains

15.  Clues and Questions

16. Vocabulary Games

17. Word Trees 

18. Word Walls

19.Data Retrieval Charts 

20. Word Journals

21. Dictionaries

22. Home Connections

23. Morphemic Analysis

24. Analogies

25. Word Histories

26. KIM (Knowledge Information Memory) Charts   

27. Context Clues

28. Keyword Method

29. Content Area Read Alouds    

30. Readers Theater   

31. Student-made Books

32. Poetry   

33. Vocabulary Graffiti

34. Word Posters

35.I-Search a Word







Andrea M. Guillaume is a Professor in the Department of Elementary and Bilingual Education at California State University, Fullerton. She began her active teaching journey as a public school teacher and continues that journey by working with preservice and practicing teachers at the university and in local schools. She writes numerous articles and books for teachers, exploring her professional interests in pedagogy, content area instruction, and teacher development.