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Vocabulary Instruction in the Reader's Workshop: Making the Pieces Fit


How do you fit it all in?
                                                                   -Concerned Teacher 

In my last blog post, I wrote about how I teach tier 2 vocabulary words. I developed a whole approach using research-based instructional strategies with a fun twist for increased student engagement. If you missed that post, you can read it here

After publishing, I received many questions via email and in my tpt store. Almost everyone asked the same question: How do you fit it all in? I get it. I really do. As classroom teachers, we're inundated with curricular and non-curricular demands daily, hourly, and some days by the minute. So your questions are valid.

How do I fit it all in?

I grappled with this question for quite a while before I found something that works for me. The school district I work for mandates 90 minutes for reader's workshop and  60 minutes for writer's workshop. I had to fit in word study (we use Words Their Way), as well as the academic vocabulary instruction. These two are not synonymous. Words Their Way teaches spelling patterns, phonics, and Greek and Latin roots. Tier 2 vocabulary are robust, academic vocabulary words that students are likely to encounter across all topics and content-areas and in testing situations.  

Fitting it in felt like this in the beginning!
At first, I tried to keep all of the pieces of my reader's workshop intact. That means, I taught a reading strategy mini-lesson every day, my students read independently for at least 30 minutes every day, and I taught either guided reading or strategy groups every day. Then I tried tacking the vocabulary lesson on at the end of the session. I ended up not having time to share my mentor text with my kids. I had to have time to read aloud in my 90 minute reader's workshop block. That was non-negotiable. 

Then, I had my Elsa Moment. I let go of that impossible expectation. I really did. Because you know what? If I made my vocabulary lessons part of my cycle of mini-lessons and/or small group instruction, I was still teaching reading. Sure. I wasn't teaching the prescribed unit  mini-lessons, but my kids were still learning how to read. They were learning to read and comprehend hard tier 2 words that they encounter across all subject matters. Once I had that paradigm shift, I regained my sanity. Check out the chart below to see how I did it. 



Some important notes about this schedule...
  • Words Their Way practice occurred at home. It was a short homework task that students completed every night (5-10 minutes tops).
  • I teach 2 to 3 tier 2 vocabulary words every week.
  • I assess on Fridays, every other week. The assessments are quick and to the point. 
  • I'm not a fan of a "centers approach" in my 5th grade reader's workshop. Why? Experts say that kids need to read at least 30 minutes a day. Fifth graders should be reading 50-60 minutes daily. Guess what? It isn't happening at home. 
  • Therefore, the only other task during independent reading time is that my students complete a vocabulary thinking task in their notebooks. 
This approach isn't the only way to incorporate vocabulary instruction, but it is the schedule that has worked for my classroom. I would love to hear how you "fit it all in!" Share in the comments!



If you're looking for a way to teach tier 2 vocabulary words or want to pump up your word study practices, check these out. Just click on the picture!












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