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The Best Way to Teach Vocabulary

Vocabulary is such an important skill to teach at any grade, especially to our bilingual learners. It is no surprise that I LOVE to use picture books and read alouds when teaching vocabulary in context. I’ve joined up with The Reading Crew to share comprehension strategies. Check out the link-in below for more great ideas and blog posts!

teach vocabulary

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Today I am going to use Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming to show you what I do when I am teaching vocabulary with picture books during interactive read alouds. I have been working on improving my vocabulary instruction more recently because I teach in a dual-language program and all of my students are bilingual learners. Keep reading to see how I do it and for a freebie to try it with your students.

Muncha! free vocabulary resource

Attention Getter

The first thing I do, even before I start reading is PRE-TEACH the vocabulary words. In this book, I teach the words hurdle, hoed, trench and gnawed. We look at the word with the included picture and students talk about what they think that word means. We discuss the phonics parts we see in the words (short/long vowels, blends, digraphs, endings, etc.) and other words we know that are like that word and what the picture is showing.

During this introduction, I make sure to have the students listen and say the word many, many times. I also pull in the definition card and we discuss the definition, the parts of speech it is and the sentence. Without reading the book, yet, the students don’t have much of a connection to the sentence so it’s a basic introduction. We’ll do more discussion as we read and after.

More recently, I’ve also started bringing in some TPR for our vocabulary words.

TPR = Total Physical Response.

You can learn more about TPR >>HERE<<. Essentially, it’s a strategy for teaching vocabulary words by adding an action. It is something that both my Spanish speaking teaching partner and I use throughout units and lessons. As much as we can, we try to use American Sign Language for the word.


To prepare to teach the vocabulary using the book, I print out the notes and things I want to say on sticky notes. Check out >>THIS<< blog post with instructions on how to print on stickies. I then put these stickies in my book so that I know what to say when the vocabulary words come up. I like using >>THESE<< sticky notes. Because I use them year after year, I like the extra sticky ones.

While we are reading the book, as students hear our vocabulary words I have them demonstrate in some way (tapping their nose or head) that they heard the vocabulary word. When I notice that the students heard a word, I back up and reread the sentence with the word. (I did already know the word was on that page because I had my sticky note on it. But the kids don’t know that, so I like for them to listen for the words.)

At this time, I like to have them turn and talk and remind each other what that word means. I pull out the vocabulary picture card and the definition and we review those again.

If you are able, this is a great time to have students practice using the word in a sentence. I use the sentence from the book as an example and then give the students some sentence starters for them to use.

For example, with the word hurdle, in the book the rabbits hurdle over the fence. I give the sentence starter “I hurdle the…” and they fill in the blank.

I hurdle the chair.

Joe hurdles the book.

I hurdle the toys to get to the table.

If students can add on longer sentences, that’s excellent. For words like hurdle, I also have them demonstrate what it means by acting it out. We then add sentences as they are acting it out. “Miguel hurdles the backpack in the hall.”


Once we have read the book, we review the words again. This time, when they turn and talk, I have them try to say what the definition is and add the TPR movement.

Some other ways I like to practice include using the words in even MORE sentences and writing those sentences. The freebie below also has a vocabulary worksheet that can be made into a vocabulary journal or as an extra worksheet to complete as a class.

We also add the words to our vocabulary anchor charts. This chart includes the word, definition or synonyms and a picture. We refer back to these charts throughout the year as the words come up in our learning.


Are you ready for your freebie? Click >>HERE<< or on the image below to sign up and grab your freebie. It includes vocabulary information and suggestions, sticky note printables and easy print and cut notes for all 4 of the vocabulary words in Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming, a vocabulary worksheet and instructions for how to print on sticky notes.

vocabulary freebie


If you like this resource, then you may also like my full interactive read aloud for Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming. It includes stopping points and in-depth comprehension questions, sticky note and easy to cut printables to stick in the book, retelling and story elements worksheets, feeling activities and more!


interactive read aloud

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teaching deep thinking a lesson on vocabulary

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