A strong vocabulary is essential for success in reading. In their groundbreaking work "Choosing Which Words to Teach: Three Tier Model of Vocabulary Words," researchers Isabel Beck, Margaret McKowen and Linda Kucan divide words into "tiers" to differentiate among the types of words students need to know to be able to read. Tier 1 words are basic words that rarely require instruction, such as "happy" and "baby." Tier 3 words come from specific content areas and are best taught in context. Tier 2 words appear frequently in texts and may need to be taught in the classroom.

Tier 2 Words in the Classroom

Tier 2 words help students decipher meaning across disciplines.
Tier 2 words help students decipher meaning across disciplines.

Tier 2 words aid plot development but do not often appear in common language. Some Tier 2 words can be demonstrated rather than taught through discussion, especially words that have double meanings, such as "arm" or "trunk." Teachers can increase meaning and retention by tying learning to an image. For students learning English, Tier 2 words that are similar to those from the student's native language do not need a lot of instruction. Words that do not fall into either category should be earmarked for special attention.