The Vocabulary Doctors: How to Teach Vocabulary

A conversation with Dr. Kimberly Tyson and Dr. Angela Peery on episode 94 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Dr. Kimberly Tyson @tysonkimberly and Dr. Angela Peery @drangelapeery share their advice for helping students learn blended vocabulary. We’ll also be giving away of their book Blended Vocabulary for K12 Classrooms: Harnessing the Power of Digital tools and Direct Instruction and you can enter by clicking here and following the instructions.

The -Vocabulary Doctors-- How to Teach Vocabulary

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In today’s show, Dr. Kimberly Tyson and Dr. Angela Peery discuss best practices for teaching vocabulary:

  • The best practices that aren’t in the classroom yet
  • Three components to help teach vocabulary
  • Some apps and tools for teaching vocabulary
  • An overview of the framework in the book
  • How modeling vocabulary acquisition is important

I hope you enjoy this episode with Dr. Kimberly Tyson and Dr. Angela Peery! Today in the show, I recommend taking this quiz to see if Angela Watson’s 40-hour workweek club is right for you. This is a great program for teachers. Learn more.

Want to hear another episode on helping students learn? Listen to Ramona Persaud talk about 5 ways to adjust teaching to how the brain learns.

Selected Links from this Episode

Blended Vocabulary Book Giveaway Contest

Full Bio As Submitted

Dr. Angela Peery

Dr. Angela Peery teaches vocabulary

Dr. Angela Peery

Dr. Angela Peery has been an educator 31 years and has served as a secondary English teacher, secondary administrator, instructional coach, turnaround specialist, curriculum developer, and consultant. Angela has also authored or co-authored 13 books, including Blended Vocabulary for K–12 Classrooms: Harnessing the Power of Digital Tools and Direct Instruction (2017) and the bestseller The Data Teams Experience: A Guide to Effective Meetings (2014).

Dr. Kimberly Tyson

Kimberly Tyson, or “Dr. Kimberly” as she is known by many, has been an educator and literacy consultant for many years. She has a great deal of experience as a classroom teacher, college administrator and instructor, and literacy consultant in classrooms ranging from preschool to the graduate level. Kimberly currently serves as an Education Specialist at Solution Tree and helps manage and support large-scale PLC implementations.

Dr. Kimberly Tyson teaches vocabulary in the classroom

Dr. Kimberly Tyson

Her recently published vocabulary book, co-authored with Dr. Angela Peery, is entitled Blended Vocabulary: Harnessing the Power of Digital Tools and Direct Instruction and focuses on effective vocabulary practices in a blended environment. Written expressly for K-12 teachers, she hopes to empower teachers to provide effective vocabulary instruction along with using digital tools to support word learning. Follow the hashtag #blendedvocab on Twitter to see content from the book.

She regularly contributes literacy insights at Dr. Kimberly’s Literacy Blog and has collaborated in writing classroom curriculum and language arts sections as well as chairing the Elementary Reading National Evaluation Preparation Committee for Pearson Education.

Dr. Kimberly’s approach to literacy is research-based, practical, and is expertly designed to move literacy instruction and achievement forward. She has actively contributed to projects with the Indiana Department of Education, the Central Indiana Education Service Center, and other educational service centers in Indiana and nationally.

If you want to get in Kimberly’s good favor, she’s partial to strong coffee and chocolate (in that order). She volunteers in her community and cheers for the Phillies (a transplant from the east coast). She loves gardening, reading, bike riding, art galleries, live theater, and hanging out with her children.

Transcript for this episode

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 [Recording starts 0:00:00]

Stay tuned to the end of the show to learn how to figure out if my friend Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Workweek Club is right for you.

Today, the vocabulary doctors teach us how to teach vocabulary in the classroom. This is Episode 94.

The Ten-minute Teacher podcast with Vicki Davis. Every week day you’ll learn powerful practical ways to be a more remarkable teacher today.

VICKI:              Happy Thought Leader Thursday. Today, we’re talking to the vocabulary doctors; Dr. Kimberly Tyson @tysonkimberly and Dr. Angela Peery @drangelapeery

.                   They have a new book, Blended Vocabulary for K-12 Classrooms. So, Kimberly, haven’t we just maxed out on all the ways to teach vocabulary? What’s up with needing some new book and some new method?

KIMBERLY:  That’s a really good point, because we both say that there’s a lot of great books out there that we’ve used for years and years. Angela and I have both worked with teachers K-12 for many years. What we know, and what the research tells us and practical examples tell us, is that despite all that we know about what makes up effective vocabulary instruction, very little of that has really trickled down to classroom practice. So a lot of us do what we did when we were in school. And unfortunately, it’s not the best way to teach vocabulary. So that’s why we wrote out book, which include strategies and digital tools that can support vocabulary learning.

VICKI:          Angela, Kimberly is talking about the things that haven’t trickled down. I mean, what needs to trickle down? What does this model look like?

ANGELA:     What we have tried to do is take the best of all the models that are already out there and synthesize them into three components that we feel every teacher can do and bring his or her own spin to.


                    And those three components are being a model of vocabulary at all times, being that great adult learner that shows an interest in words and that tries to nurture that in their students, obviously. The second component is teaching students, through direction instruction, teaching students words that they need to know but also teaching them how to apply word learning strategies such as word analysis, breaking down words into parts. And the third component is also never forgetting that we want to provide for incidental vocabulary learning at all times. And that includes; in the classroom teacher’s world, that includes things like allowing time for independent reading, and allowing students to share words that they found and all sorts of great stuff like that.

What actually differentiates in our model from other models is our digital tools component. So we do, throughout the book, try to share with teachers some of the best applications and websites that they can use that will enhance vocabulary instruction.

VICKI:          But, Kimberly, there are so many ways you can learn vocabulary now. I know. You know what; when I got my first Kindle, and I even use it now, as I read and I can look up vocabulary words and then review those words, (See How to use Vocbulary builder on your Kindle paperwhite – )

I feel like my own vocabulary has exploded. I mean, I know you talk about a lot of Edtech tools, but what are some of your favorites for really learning new vocabulary?

KIMBERLY:  I think as with everything with Edtech is, it always depends on the teacher’s purpose. Depending on whether that teacher is trying to pull in tech tools right while she’s doing direct instruction, or often teachers are using them more for independent word learning and practice. I’ll say that one of my favorite reference tools – I have a lot of favorites.


                    But one of them happens to be – and I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing this correctly – Shahi, S-H-A-H-I. I love Shahi. I like Lingro. I like both of those because I enjoy the ones that really work for students that provide that visual component, so students can see the word, they can hear the word pronounced, and then they can also see a visual or many visuals to reinforce the learning of that word. We love VocabularySpellingCity , both the free component and the more advanced component. We like Free Rice (Vocabulary Section: ), Flashcard Stash.  There are so many good ones out there. And we encourage teachers to share. I’ve had teachers email me on my website and through Twitter and say, hey, I found this tool; what do you think about this? So it’s fun getting input from teachers as well as the ones that we enjoy.

VICKI:          So as we finish up, Angela, what do you think the biggest mistake teachers make when they’re trying to teach vocabulary?

ANGELA:     Oh, that’s an interesting question. I think, especially in this past year having worked with a lot of teachers side by side in their classrooms, that a couple of things. I think maybe teachers directly teach a word meaning only one time, maybe twice, and they don’t necessarily explore that word in all the ways it could be used or they don’t keep calling kids’ attention to it, and therefore it doesn’t really stick very well with the students.

I think the other thing – and this is where our digital tools component comes in – I think that perhaps teachers don’t give students enough practice with words that they have been teaching, and also just practicing expanding their vocabularies, like some of what Kimberly was just talking about. Kids need lots of practice and lots of exposures to words in order to put them in their own lexicons. And I think sometimes teachers just run out of ways to do that, and so they rely on the good old “I’ll tell you the meaning again” or “let’s look it up again”.


                    And sometimes they don’t go too far beyond that. So we’re hoping our book will change some of that.

VICKI:          Wow. And that’s tough. So, Kimberly, what would you add to that? When you’re helping teachers and they just feel like the kids, they want the teachers just to hand them the definition. Should we let kids struggle, or what should we do at that point?

KIMBERLY:  I believe in productive struggle, but I also believe in – what we know about vocabulary is that to move vocabulary from our listening so that we understand it when you say it and you might use it in context, so that we can move it from our listening to our speaking and our writing vocabulary, really only comes through practice; lots of practice and review. So actually, productive struggle, if they don’t know what it means, isn’t really productive at all. We’ve got to give them many opportunities to use language in class, to have conversations in class, to use word walls, to use technology tools that can enhance their word learning and support it. We’ve got to use all the tools available to us, including print, of course, that can help them move the words from their general understanding, which is more their listening vocabulary, to their speaking and their writing vocabulary. And, again, it’s only going to come through lots of practice, lots of verbal practice, independent reading, writing, to help move that vocabulary, to be able to use it in their everyday life.

VICKI:          So, teachers, check the show notes. Because we’ll also be giving away their book; Blended Vocabulary for K-12 Classrooms, by Dr. Angela Peery and Dr. Kimberly Tyson. So check the show notes; you’ll see how to do that.


                    I think it’s important, because vocabulary – I once read, and I’ll include this in the show notes too, that the greatest indicator of success is actually not your educational level; it is your vocabulary level.  They have found that those exceptional people who don’t go to college and still become amazing entrepreneurs are actually often readers who have a tremendous vocabulary. So vocabulary acquisition is such an important thing that we need to all develop. And we need to develop those tools and understand how to really help our students acquire and use vocabulary. So this is an important topic. And I hope you’ll head over to the blog post and share this show and enter to win their book.

This month, Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Workweek Club will open up for membership. And she only has two open [indiscernible 0:08:48] a year. Now, I’ve been participating for a year and I have learned so much about classroom efficiency. But, it’s not for everybody. So I’ve got a link for you to a quick quiz that will help you understand if the 40 Hour Workweek Club would be right for you. Just go to and take the quiz to see if the 40 Hour Workweek is right for you.


Thank you for listening to the Ten-minute Teacher Podcast. You can download the show notes and see the archive at Never stop learning.


[End of Audio 0:09:35]


[Transcription created by Some additional editing has been done to add grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Every attempt has been made to correct spelling. For permissions, please email]


The post The Vocabulary Doctors: How to Teach Vocabulary appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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