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How to Integrate Vocabulary Instruction into Your Phonics Lessons

For a student to learn a new word, three parts of their brain must be activated: where the sounds of the word are stored, where the letters of the word are stored, and where the meaning of the word is stored.

In this post, we're going to focus on the "meaning" part - or, specifically, how we can integrate vocabulary instruction into our phonics instruction.

However, when you think about phonics instruction, the idea of vocabulary learning might not immediately come to mind! 

For many people, phonics instructions = kids reading words, working with sounds, learning to spell words, and so on. In fact, this is what many phonics programs include.

Nevertheless, as we see in the first sentence of this post, learning the meaning of a word is essential to actually learning the word as a whole! So we can - and should - incorporate vocabulary work into our phonics instruction.

Tips and Ideas for Incorporating Vocabulary Instruction Into Your Phonics Lessons

  • Take your target phonics pattern for the week (example: r-blends) and choose 2-4 vocabulary words that also fit the target phonics pattern (example: "brag").
  • Find or sketch a picture to go with the vocabulary word - create a little poster. In our phonics program, From Sounds to Spelling, we provide you with these posters (see example image below).
  • When students are practicing reading and spelling words, spend a little extra time on these 2-4 target vocabulary words. Discuss their meanings, come up with examples, have students come up with their own examples, etc. You might even have students add the words and examples to a vocabulary journal.
  • Play a vocabulary review game toward the end of the week. You might give clues about a word and students have to come up with the word. You can also review past weeks' words as well.
  • Consider giving a super quick assessment to test students' knowledge of the vocabulary words (see example image below).

Of course, this vocabulary work should not be the only vocabulary work you do with students! You will also want to have a time period dedicated to explicit vocabulary instruction.

To learn more about a science-based phonics program that provides "ready to use" vocabulary instructional materials, click here.

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