• Dr. Patricia Cook

Teaching vocabulary in the online classroom.

Every teacher should consider themselves a reading teacher, regardless of what grade or subject they teach, especially in the digital classroom. However, for many struggling readers this is an area that teachers forget to include in their best laid plans for transitioning to teaching online. Vocabulary strategies must be taught to struggling learners who are interacting with text and concepts in new ways through online tools. Teachers can also use vocabulary instruction strategies as a way to bridge the gap for students who may need additional enrichment or engagement in learning for students in the digital learning environment.

Create a digital "word wall" for online courses and encourage students to develop their own personal dictionary using notes and images that have meaning for them. When shared, this is a great way to collaborate and build connections to what students are learning online.

Here is a great example of digital word walls from The Techie Teacher, available at:


Explore vocabulary in virtual discussion tools by asking questions not only about term meanings, but also by identifying opposites, real life examples and by forming connections with student's personal experiences to help activate prior knowledge and build connections with key terms. Once students are able to understand the key terms of a topic, they are more likely to experience greater growth towards understanding materials presented in digital learning platform. You can set up polls, puzzles or discussions about vocabulary with groups of students in programs like kahoot.com to develop deeper meaning of vocabulary concepts students are experiencing in digital learning platforms.

One of the fastest ways to intervene when a student is struggling with a concept is to provide direct instruction in vocabulary, and help the student identify the "words to know" to organize the cognitive maps they are forming in their brains when using digital learning tools. From there, learners can extend what you are teaching in the online classroom to what they see in the world around them.

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