Strategies for Finding and Teaching Tier II Words

I’m so excited to be part of the Great Top Teachers’ Blog Swap and Hop.  Welcome to Arlene Sandberg, my guest here on Dilly Dabbles today.  You can read my guest post on Teaching With Style.  Be sure to hop on through all the great guest posts throughout the blogosphere for this event.

I am very excited today to be guest blogging for Melissa. My name is Arlene Sandberg and after 33 years of teaching experience and 4 years of consulting I finally retired. Well, sort of. With the support and help from a few teacher bloggers I opened a store on TpT and started my own blog at the young age of 63. I hope to be able to share my experience and knowledge to help teachers make a difference for their students.

My last teaching job was in a Title I Elementary school in Anchorage, Alaska as an ESL Resource Teacher/Specialist. I focused a lot on Vocabulary Instruction with my ESL students but realized that many classroom teachers were spending very little time on teaching vocabulary. Many had students look up words in the dictionary but teaching vocabulary is so much more than looking up words in the dictionary and using the word in a sentence. Many times the words in the definition were more difficult than the vocabulary word. Isabel Beck and her colleagues developed a Three Tiered System for classifying words according to their level of utility. Tier One words consist of your basic words that your students should know (on the Dale-Chall List). Tier Three words are Content words specific to a topic. Tier Two words occur frequently and are central to comprehension and are the words we should target for explicit instruction.

How to find Tier-Two Words: Questions to ask: (no more than 10 words)

  1. Is it a word whose meaning your students are unlikely to know?
  2. Is it generally useful and found across a variety of domains?
  3. Can it be explained in student-friendly language?
  4. Is the meaning of the word necessary to comprehend the text?

How to actively engage your students with those Tier 2 words: (from Core Literacy Library: Vocabulary Handbook by Linda Diamond and Linda Gutlohn)

  1. Contextualize the word
  2. Say the Word
  3. Give a Student-Friendly Explanation
  4. Provide a Different Context
  5. Engage Actively in the Word (can choose among the list)
  • Ask questions
  • Have students make choices
  • Finish the idea-sentence starters
  • Example-Non-Example of the target word
  • Have you ever………

6.  Say the Word Again

You can download a copy of Finding and Engaging Students Actively in Tier Two words with some more examples of #5 above as well as making Vocabulary Word Cards at:



I hope you will download my free Frogs and Toads Unit (Grades 2-3) and find Tier Two words to target. It has a complete lesson plan as well as ELA 2nd and 3rd grade Common Core Standards (Integrating ELA standards through a Science Unit)

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to share these important strategies. I hope they will help you when you start your new school year and think about vocabulary instruction. Hope you will visit me at LMN Tree.
Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students.

What strategies do use to teach vocabulary?

6 thoughts on “Strategies for Finding and Teaching Tier II Words

    • Thanks so much for your comment and kuddos to you. So glad to hear that you tried a strategy from a demonstration and it worked. Thanls for all you do for your students.

  1. I love this! You know, I don’t do much other than talking, talking, talking when it comes to vocab development. It’s nice to have some food for thought!

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