SIOP Feature #27 ​Give a comprehensive review of key vocabulary​

Review key vocabulary terms is an critical part of teaching and an vital aspect of SIOP.  When teachers give a comprehensive review of important terms, students have the opportunity to notice which ones they own and which ones need more attention. Teachers are also able to see which vocabulary terms are easy and which ones still pose problems.

It's not sufficient to teach vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson never to work with it again. Students need multiple opportunities to interact with vocabulary at multiple stages during a lesson. Providing students with a comprehensive review of the terms that are important accomplishes a number of objectives:

  1. Reviewing vocabulary sends the signal to the students that those terms are important.
  2. Reviewing vocabulary gives students one more opportunity to own it.
  3. Reviewing vocabulary helps students determine the degree of comfort and ownership they have with each term.
  4. Reviewing vocabulary gives teachers the chance to gauge how well students understand and can use the vocabulary on their own.
4 teachers working on the floor on an activity

Vocabulary Reviewing Strategies

SIOP challenges educators to make vocabulary learning a more conscious act for both teachers and learners. Just glancing at the components and features hints at the important role vocabulary plays (it is directly mentioned at least 5 times).

Reviewing is a vital step in teaching and in learning. Thus, the question is not "should I review vocabulary?" but, rather, "how should I review vocabulary?" 

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Strategy #1: Review the vocabulary a different way than you taught it.

This is important for a number of reasons.  First, if students aren't engaged with the way the review is happening, it's probably not worth doing it. Student engagement is critical, and students tend to pay less attention to something that has already been done.

Next, if the way you taught it didn't work the first time, the chances are that it won't work the second time. Lastly, students attain true ownership when they can use their vocabulary knowledge in new ways and under new circumstances.

​Giving students a review of vocabulary in a different way than was taught is a strategy that sets students up for success.


Strategy #2:  Get students to use the vocabulary to describe the content.

First, As you know, there are four components to vocabulary ownership:

  • Form - how the word looks, is spelled, changes, etc.
  • Usage - how the word is used in context.
  • Meaning - what the word signifies.
  • Pronunciation - how the word is pronounced.

Of these four, usage is the most powerful.  When students can use the word (in speaking and/or in writing), they demonstrate that they can use the word in context. Their understanding of the word solidifies.

Next, when students use the vocabulary to interact with the content, they also have the opportunity to review the content. This keeps both the students and their teacher focused on the academic application of the phrases they have been learning.

Strategy #3: Students need to know where they stand.


At some point during the review, students should be given the opportunity to clearly recognize which terms they own and which ones they are still renting. There are a number of reasons why this is so important:

  • Learners are ultimately the only ones who can do the learning. Giving them a chance to "take their own pulse" gives them the chance to increase both responsibility and accountability.
  • Determining the ease at which you use vocabulary taps into the metacognitive powers of the mind.  "Thinking about your own thinking" lets the brain know that the vocabulary task is important.
  • Before completing a final, formal assessment, reviewing where students stand with the vocabulary empowers them to do something to improve their understanding of the vocabulary terms.

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