Choosing Vocabulary Words for Read Alouds

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” —Maya Angelou

When planning read alouds, which words are the ones to teach? You must be careful not to make the reading into a vocabulary lesson. The story needs to flow. Students need the chance to be pulled into the magic of the story. However, they do need you to explain and discuss words that will help them make sense of the text. As I said yesterday, approximately 6 words per read aloud is an appropriate number.

When previewing a book, there are some questions that can guide you in choosing a vocabulary list:

  1. Is this word necessary to the understanding of the text?
  2. How much prior knowledge about this word are the students likely to have?
  3. How often is this word repeated throughout the text? In other books they have read?
  4. Does the word have multiple meanings that could confuse the listeners?
  5. Does the text provide context clues to the word?

After choosing the vocabulary, I plan briefly what I will say to explain the word. Often I just give a synonym (or possibly an antonym) and go on with the story. Sometimes, I ask the students about their familiarity with the word or have them discuss with their shoulder partner what they already know about it. Occasionally, we discuss the prefix or suffix of a word and notice how its affix has affected its meaning. I probably do mention context clues daily, but briefly, to reinforce that authors help you to learn new words in your reading.

Here’s a fun activity to use on occasion:

Predict-O-Gram

List the words.

Ask students to predict how the author might use these words to tell the story.

Try to predict the plot or the main idea of the story.

This activity also works well with non-fiction reading, such as science and social studies text.

Find a good book to share that first day!

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