Contextually-Based Multiple Meaning Vocabulary Instruction

Contextually-Based Multiple Meaning Vocabulary Instruction


A study conducted by Nelson and Stage (2007) compared contextually-based multiple meaning vocabulary instruction within customary language arts instruction to language arts instruction alone. Those students receiving the contextually-based multiple meaning vocabulary instruction significantly outgained their peers in the control group with respect to comprehension and vocabulary. The study participants were third and fifth grade students.


Teacher should select target words in advance.

Day 1: Meanings of Related Words 

  • To activate students prior knowledge, introduce target word using related word(s). 
  • example: The target word might be crash, so the teacher might give the students the following sentence: Mike was so tired that he just wanted to go home and sleep. The related word is sleep
  • Students write sentences using the related word. 

Day 2

  • Word Meaning in Context: Discuss the history of the target word.
  • Word Meaning Map: Have your students match related words from day one with target word meanings using a graphic organizer. (The study manuscript does not provide an example of the graphic organizer used, but I have included a sample of one below that I believe is appropriate; it's just a double column table that I created in MS Word). 

  •  Complete Each Definition: A small assessment is given here to to see that students can appropriately match the target word with each of its meanings.
  •  Understanding Check: Next have students read short passages that you have created using the target words, sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly. Students will have to indicate whether or not the word has been used in a manner that is expected or not expected
  • If you gave students the sentence: Kelly had so much energy that she decided she would crash on the sofa, the student would need to label this not expected if he understands as intended. 
  • Create Stories: Students will write short stories or scenarios using each meaning of the target word. 
  • Example: Some days school is so tough that I just want to crash. Some people crash their cars because they try to send text messages while driving.