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3.7 Vocabulary Support for Struggling Readers

Often during close reading activities, it becomes evident that some students need additional literacy instruction to understand complex text. There are several effective approaches to reinforcing key concepts and vocabulary that can be implemented by pulling students together into small groups in an extended lesson. These approaches are especially effective in increasing comprehension for struggling students, English learners, and students with disabilities.

Time to Read

Take a few minutes to read Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines, Principle 1. Provide Multiple Means of Representation, Checkpoint 2.1: Clarify Vocabulary and Symbols to examine how words, symbols, numbers, and icons pose challenges to students with disabilities. Pay close attention to the recommendation that key vocabulary should be linked or associated with an alternative representation of meaning.

As you read in the document, providing students with visual vocabulary cards can help students understand challenging concepts. Additionally, teachers can guide students to create their own vocabulary cards to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts in alternative formats. The National Center for Universal Design for Learning Web site lists a number of examples and resources to aid in addressing Checkpoint 2.1.

UDL is discussed further in the Aligning Individualized Education Programs to the Common Core State Standards professional learning module.

Time to Reflect

Consider the recommendations of UDL and your own experience to answer the following question in your journal.


Sample responses

Time to Extend

For an example of how to help students make graphical connections among words and concepts, explore the Visuwords Web site. Here students can look up words, find their meanings, and see how the words connect to other words and concepts. The Web site produces interactive diagrams with embedded definitions.