Principles to Guide Vocabulary Instruction


Principle 1: Select words in actual reading materials

  • Choose words which are essential to understanding the entire text.
  • Choose words without clues.
  • Choose words which are to be encountered even in other texts.

Recommended Words

  • Key words/ content specific words or those that appear in materials for basic reading
  • Useful words/ general academic vocabulary or those which almost always appear in texts
  • Interesting words or those that tickle the imagination or those with intriguing origins
  • Vocabulary- building words of those with clues

Priciple 2: Relate words with other words

  • Henry (1974) recommends word sorting or ” joining”. Joining allows comparing, classifying, and generalizing.


  • Which four words are alike?


  • He also recommends ” excluding”. It involves discrimination, negation, and rejection of words in a group.


  • Which word does not belong to the group?

             AUF, FEU, UST, DOH

  • He also suggests ” selecting”. Selecting involves choosing and explaining reasons behind a choice. Knowledge on synonyms and antonyms helps ease this cognitive process.


  • Rena’s quiet behavior was mistaken for ______.

         a. shyness b. modesty c. terror

         The answer is C.

  • He also emphasizes ” implying”. This involves making choices based in if then course and effect relationship.
  • E.g. Pedal is to bicycle as engine is to …

            a. driver b. car c. wheel d. road

Principle3: Relate words with schema

  • Use the words in sentences with clues regarding the meaning
  • The clues must be familiar among students
  • E.g. Sherlock Holmes is a famous sleuth.

            a. adventurer b. scientist c. detective d. criminal

  •     Loud is to sound as bright is to

             a. day b. music c. night d. light

Principle 4: Teach words in Pre-Reading and Post-Reading Activities

  • Do the traditional unlocking of difficulties
  • Use the new words learned during the post reading activities such as questions
  • Use the new words learned even in retelling

Principle 5: Teach words systematically and in-depth

  • Ask students to find an antonym for the world learned
  • Ask the students to fill in blanks with the new words learned
  • Ask students to restate definitions
  • Ask students to define the word based on their experience
  • Ask students to use the word in a meaningful sentence

Principle 6: Awake interest in and enthusiasm for word

  • Be enthusiastic in teaching
  • Use words in discussions even after the learning of a text with that word
  • Tell origins and derivation of words
  • Vary strategies in teaching vocabulary
  • Use gadgets such as computers, cameras, and even video games in teaching

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