Tier three words consists of low frequency words that occur in specific domains. Tier three words are central to understanding concepts within various academic subjects and should be integrated into content instruction. Examples of tier three words include molecule, tundra, and legislature.
There is no specific formula for placing words into tiers or choosing words for direct instruction. According to Beck, Mckeown, and Kucan, teachers should consider the following when choosing vocabulary words:
- How useful is the word? Is it a word that students are likely to meet often in other texts?
- How does the word relate to other words or ideas in the curriculum? Does it directly relate to a specific topic of study
- What does the word bring to a text or situation? What role does the word play in understanding the overall meaning?
Words can also fall into more than one tier. For example, a word like pinnacle has multiple definitions, making it applicable as a tier two and tier three word.
Hopefully, you are inspired to include more tier two and tier three words into your lesson plans! Since, choosing words to focus on can be time consuming and difficult, I like to use the texts we read together in class to find new terms. Teaching vocabulary in context gives students a chance to make authentic connections and cement learning of new words.
I call it Focus on Five. First, students are required to find and record five new terms in the text. Next, students try to define the word using context clues. A dictionary can be used as a last resort. Since application of the new word is important, students are required to work with the word on their own using a variety of vocabulary activities (visual representation, narrative writing, world connections, etc.) Finally, students are assessed on their knowledge of the new terms.
You can create your own Focus on Five, or click here to download everything you need. The vocabulary activities work with any text and can be used again and again. The goal is for students to internalize the vocabulary acquisition process and repeat it automatically when reading independently.
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