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Teaching Vocabulary with the STAR Strategy


Teaching vocabulary is a skill that all teachers face each year.   One method to help teachers plan their vocabulary instruction is the STAR(Select, Teach, Activate, Revisit) strategy. Teachers can follow the method below to begin planning lessons to address vocabulary needs.



  • Choose appropriate content words.
  • Focus on words essential to understanding of the text.
  • Draw a story or text map. Using the map as the basis, select four to six words fundamental to retelling or summarizing the text.
  • Look for other important words that students are likely to encounter in additional readings, even though these words may not be essential to this particular text.


  • Consider the processes you will use before, during, and after reading.
  • Before assigning the reading, make sure you access prior knowledge and bring to the forefront concepts that will not be clearly explained in the text.
  • Use definitional, contextual, and usage information when teaching vocabulary. For example, present the word in context, discuss possible meanings, ask for a definition (provide one if students are unable to provide an accurate definition), ask students to use the words in a personal way.


  • This step focuses on the work you want students to do in order to gain understanding.
  • Use writing assignments and other activities to make sure students repeatedly hear, read, write, and use the targeted words.
  • Give students the opportunity to connect new words with other words they already know (word maps or synonym webs).
  • Have students act out words or demonstrate meaning.


  • Use additional activities to revisit important words. Possible activities include unit reviews, games, writing assignments, vocabulary journals, and word books.


Blachowicz, Camille L. Z., and Peter Fisher. “Vocabulary Lessons.” Educational Leadership (March 2004): 66-69.

Blachowicz, Camille L.Z., Peter Fisher, and Susan Watts-Taffe. Integrated Vocabulary Instruction: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners in Grades K-5. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates, 2005.

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