Literacy Training
Vocabulary Maps

Vocabulary Maps

What: The Vocabulary Map is a teacher-completed, graphic organizer used to preteach unfamiliar, conceptually important words prior to reading a text. Teachers can familiarize students with essential words using the Vocabulary Map in a quick five-minute lesson. On the Vocabulary Map, the teacher identifies a cognate for the word, student-friendly definition, visual representation, synonyms, use in context, and turn and talk prompts to engage students in oral language use.

Why: Explicit vocabulary instruction is beneficial in developing reading skills, academic vocabulary, and building meaning from text (Kamil et al., 2008; Hattie, 2009). It is especially critical for struggling readers who haven’t built robust vocabularies from extensive reading and who struggle to utilize contextual clues to decipher word meaning (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002). Studies have shown middle school reading interventions that include the preteaching of essential vocabulary words activate background knowledge and build vocabulary and text comprehension (Vaughn et al., 2013; Swanson et al., 2015).

Vocabulary Maps Walkthrough Tool

Use the Self-Generated Questions (SGQ) Walkthrough Tool to identify key instructional components. The tool defines 12 Instructional Look Fors classified by three categories: Lesson Design, Tools & Resources, and SGQ strategy components. The SGQ Walkthrough Tool can be used to guide SGQ lesson planning or as a tool when conducting a SGQ lesson Walkthrough. This tool is available in paper form by downloading the pdf or digitally through the digiCOACH app – free to CALI Reads participants.

Self-Generated Questions digiCOACH Edition

digiCOACH Vocabulary Maps: Feedback Statements


Lesson Design Tools and Resources Vocabulary Map
Purpose Graphic Organizer Pronunciation
You stated that students will learn an important word from a text they are going to read.

You told students that a better understanding of the vocabulary word will support their understanding of the text.

You reminded students that word knowledge is an important part of reading and understanding text.

You completed the Vocabulary Map ahead of time.

Your graphic organizer includes all the Vocabulary Map components.

You clearly display the Vocabulary Map for students during the lesson.

Your graphic organizer is easy to read for students.

You focused attention on your Vocabulary Map during the lesson and not asking students to copy or take notes.

You carefully enunciated the word.

You asked students to repeat the word.

You slowly pronounced the word syllable by syllable.

You repeated the word as needed so students could hear pronunciation.

You listened to student pronunciation and gave feedback as needed.

Explicit Instruction Word Choice Illustration
You informed students that you will use a Vocabulary Map to teach a new word.

You use the Vocabulary Map to teach only one word at a time.

You walk students through every part of the Vocabulary Map to preteach the vocabulary word.

You selected a vocabulary word that is conceptually important to the text.

You selected a novel vocabulary word that is not likely already known to students.

You selected a vocabulary word that students are not likely to learn independently from context alone.

You described how the illustration represents the vocabulary word.

You choose an illustration that supports how the word is used in the text.

You said the vocabulary word when explaining the illustration.

Instructional Time Cognate Student-friendly Definition
You moved at an appropriately quick pace with the Vocabulary Map.

You limited Turn and Talk conversation to under a minute to keep the lesson moving.

You looked well-practiced with the relevant information to preteach the vocabulary word.

You invited students to say the cognate in their native tongue to model correct pronunciation.

You explained what a cognate is.

You accurately identified the cognate.

You clarified when the cognate had a slightly different meaning than the vocabulary word.

You invited students to restate the definition.

You avoided using a derivation of the word to define it.

You avoided complex and unfamiliar words when defining the word.

You used an explanation that would be very familiar or relatable to students.

Collaborative Discussion Turn and Talk Prompts Synonym(s)
You encouraged students to discuss the prompt with a shoulder partner.

You listened to students as they talked to each other.

You invited 1-2 students to share-out thoughts and ideas following peer discussion.

You used a prompt(s) that are relatable to students.

You used a prompt to get students to discuss how the word is similar or different from a familiar synonym or similar word.

You used a prompt to get students to discuss examples and non-examples.

You cued students to use the vocabulary word in their peer discussion.

You used a prompt that asked students to apply the word to their own experience.

You stated what synonyms are.

You read the synonyms aloud to students.

You pointed to the synonyms as you read them aloud.

You choose synonyms that were closely related to the word and how it is used in context.

Example Sentences
You used sentences that were an appropriate use of the word.

You used or adapted a sentence from the text to illustrate how it will be used in context.

You used a sentence that expanded understanding of the word beyond the text.


Beck, I., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary development. New York: Guilford.

Hattie, J. (2009). The contributions from teaching approaches-part 1. J. Hattie.(Eds.), Visible learning: A synthesis of over, 800, 161-199.

Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices. IES Practice Guide. NCEE 2008-4027. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

Swanson, E., Wanzek, J., Vaughn, S., Roberts, G., & Fall, A. M. (2015). Improving reading comprehension and social studies knowledge among middle school students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 81(4), 426-442.

Vaughn, S., Swanson, E. A., Roberts, G., Wanzek, J., Stillman‐Spisak, S. J., Solis, M., & Simmons, D. (2013). Improving reading comprehension and social studies knowledge in middle school. Reading Research Quarterly, 48(1), 77-93.

Relevant Common Core State Standards: Anchor Standards for Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use


Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.


Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.