Vocabulary Cards




Vocabulary knowledge is one of the five essential components of effective reading (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002).  The content areas are packed with concepts and technical vocabulary that students must understand if they are to be successful readers and learners (Harmon, Hedrick, & Wood, 2005).  A strategy designed to help students learn content-specific terminology is the use of vocabulary cards (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2002).  This strategy has been shown to increase depth and breadth of word knowledge, resulting in greater comprehension (Rekrut, 1996).


Teaching Process

1.   Demonstrate how to create a vocabulary card with students by writing a key term on the board and drawing a large, rectangular card-like frame around it so that it is in the center of the rectangle. 

2.   In the corners of the card write a definition, characteristics, examples, and an illustration of the term (Note: You may require students to learn other information or demonstrate other applications with the terms, which would necessitate a modification of the card features described here.)

3.   Discuss with students how the card can be reviewed quickly and easily in preparation for tests, quizzes, and other activities with the word.

4.   Identify a list of key vocabulary terms from the lesson and have students write them in the center of a 3x5 index card. As material is covered and content is read, guide students as they fill out their cards with the required information. 

5.   Once cards are completed, allow time for students to review their words individually and with a partner. 

6.   Quiz students over the content of their cards with questions and tasks that require recall and understanding of all the information on the vocabulary cards.


Example of Vocabulary Card for Social Studies









Blachowicz, C.L., & Fisher, P. (2004). Teaching vocabulary in all classrooms. Columbus,OH: Merrill.

Harmon, J.M., Hedrick, W.B., & Wood, K.D. (2005). Research on vocabulary instruction in the content areas: Implications for struggling readers. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 21, 261-280.

RAND Reading Study Group. (2002). Reading for understanding: Toward an R&D program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

Rekrut, M.D. (1996). Effective vocabulary instruction. High School Journal, 80, 66-74.


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