Marzano's 6 Steps to Vocabulary Instruction

created using The Startup Way template
published by Reed Gillespie


How to teach vocabulary

Robert Marzano's Strategies

by Reed Gillespie

Teacher provides a description, explanation, and/or example

Provide a description

In their own words,

Students construct

students restate the description, explanation, or example

a picture, pictograph or symbolic representation of the word



allow students to interact with the words

Provide students with opportunities to discuss words with each other


Extend and Engage

with activities


Importance of Specific Vocabulary Instruction

Research shows a student in the 50th percentile in terms of ability to comprehend the subject matter with no direct vocabulary instruction will continue to score in the 50th percentile. That same student, with the benefit of specific content-area vocabulary instruction, will score in the 83rd percentile.

In step 1, provide a visual

In step 2, allow students to restate in their native language

Tips for ESL Students

In step 3, require students to create their own visual

In step 4, engage students in activities that help them add to their knowledge by allowing them to use their native language

In steps 5 and 6, pair students of same native language

Top Tips

Don't skip steps.

Students need to generate their own definitions.

Games don't need to be competitive. A good game is fun and non-threatening. After playing, have students reflect on their learning progress.

Step 3 is crucial. When done, well student learning soars.

Students looking up words is not a useful strategy.

Vocabulary Games


Flyswatter: Group students in teams and post sets of words on the board or walls. Read a definition, description or an example and 1 student from each team swats at the word. The winner is the first to swat the word. Students go to the end of the line and next student steps up. Taboo: You or your students can create cards with the words. List 3-5 words that can't be used to get others to guess the words. 1 student gives clues to teammates (again can't repeat the words on the card) until the word is guessed. You can also allow acting out.