A Guide to Marzano’s 6-Step Approach for Effective Vocabulary Instruction
Vocabulary plays an important role in reading comprehension and literacy development. But what is the best approach to effectively growing my vocabulary? You ask.
An educational researcher and author, Robert J. Marzano, identified vocabulary development as one of the key elements in the educational process and developed a six-step method for enhancing it.
In this article, we’ll go through Marzano’s six-step process for effective vocabulary instruction and how to implement it successfully.
Whether you seek to improve your language skills or teach students of all ages, this approach is effective. Read through to learn how to unlock the power of words.
1. Explain: Give a definition, an explanation, or an illustration of a new term
Marzano’s 6-Step Approach’s first step stresses how crucial it is to introduce new terms with a precise description, explanation, or example. The basis for successful vocabulary acquisition is laid at this early stage.
Introducing a new term with an interactive word map is the best way. Instructors and learners can explain in their own words by mapping word walls and their definitions as a starting point.
Clear introductions to concepts improve understanding and retention in the human brain, according to educational research.
In fact, research indicates that compared to less structured methods, retention and comprehension can increase by as much as 80% when new information is presented with a clear explanation or example.
The Washington Post published an article in 2008 that described how “Students Dig Deep for Words‘ Origins.” A teacher should first inform the class about the upcoming term.
Teachers can assist students in developing their preliminary understanding of the term in various ways, such as:
- Instructors can use the term to tell a tale.
- Obtain information from computer images or videos.
- Relate the phrase to a well-known event by using current affairs.
- Explain the term as they see it in their minds.
- Locate or make images that best represent the term.
It is noteworthy that certain recommendations call for the inclusion of pictures.
Students will gain a basic understanding of a new term and be better prepared to make their own mental images or graphic representations if both linguistic and nonlinguistic explanations are provided.
Educators and communicators give students a strong foundation by providing a clear explanation or a relatable example. They establish a mental “hook” that facilitates people’s understanding of the unfamiliar term.
The term may need to be clarified from this brief introduction, hindering understanding. Therefore, a concise and organized explanation or illustration is the starting point for efficient vocabulary expansion.
2. Students restate: Ask students to define the new terms in their own words
In this step, the teacher asks students to define the terms in their own words. When students explain themselves, they learn more effectively. Numerous scholarly investigations have demonstrated that self-explanatory learning can be beneficial for students.
A study found that students who were asked to self-explain had a more solid conceptual understanding of what they had learned than those who weren’t.
Another report by Positive Psychology also supports this. It reports that individuals who actively restate information are more likely to remember and apply it in various contexts.
The process of self-explanation creates links between procedural and conceptual knowledge.
These linkages help them remember the information and contextualize it by explaining why it is important.
Allowing students to explain themselves can help them succeed because they can use this skill to explain new ideas they are learning. They can also draw on prior knowledge when working through a problem.
Each term should have a space in the notebooks for students’ descriptions (Step 2).
Teachers encouraging active rephrasing can help students benefit from cognitive engagement and create a more dynamic and productive learning environment.
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3. Show: Have students create a picture, symbol, or other visual depiction of the term
Students must create a picture, symbol, or graphic representation of a term in Step 3, which compels them to consider the term in a completely new light. Students must use language to process information when reading or hearing descriptions.
However, students must process information in nonlinguistic ways when dealing with pictures, symbols, and graphic representations.
Studies have demonstrated that our brains process information 60,000 times faster than text, which makes visual aids for learning extremely useful.
Learning new words through the creation or use of visual aids can improve students’ understanding and retention of information.
However, students may require a lot of direction and modeling at first if they are not used to drawing pictures and graphics for ideas.
They may already be familiar with nonlinguistic representations, but they will probably still require assistance when dealing with terms that are challenging, unfamiliar, or abstract. Visual aids engage not only the visual sense but also associative and spatial memory, among other cognitive processes.
Take a look at an example to help you understand the idea of making visual aids for vocabulary words.
Vocabulary Term: “Metamorphosis”
It means the process of changing from one form to another.
Upon hearing the term “metamorphosis,” students are prompted to produce a visual depiction in Step 3 of Marzano’s methodology.
In this instance, they might depict a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.
A chrysalis signifies the original form, and a butterfly denotes a transformation or change.
Through the process of creating this illustration, learners are able to link the abstract notion of “metamorphosis” with a tangible and enduring picture.
This comprehensive approach has the potential to improve vocabulary comprehension and retention.
Incorporating visual elements into vocabulary learning—whether through drawing, symbol creation, or graphic use—helps students make a concrete connection with abstract terms, which improves their memorization and accessibility.
4. Discuss: Assist students in expanding their understanding of the terms
In the fourth step, the exercises students engage in help them review and discuss the terms they listed in their notebooks. Research indicates that discussing what we are learning with others enhances everyone’s comprehension, especially when picking up new academic vocabulary.
Students are required to:
- Categorize terms
- Find words with similar or opposite meanings
- Compare and contrast terms
- Use the terms in metaphors and analogies
Discussions are critical to learning in all subject areas. According to the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, they enable students to think critically about what they are learning, as opposed to just receiving it.
These exercises not only make learning more enjoyable, but they also help students connect new words with everyday situations.
In a science class, for instance, carrying out experiments about a recently introduced scientific term can aid students in better understanding the idea.
Students can close the knowledge gap between theory and practice by incorporating the term into hands-on activities. As a result, it becomes easier to remember and more relatable.
You may also like: 12 Ways to Improve Your Vocabulary and Writing Skills.
5. Refine and reflect: Allow students to talk with their peers about the new word
In Step 5, students should review the new vocabulary they have added to their notebooks. This is where they get to make any necessary additions, deletions, or changes.
When it comes to complicated concepts, this cooperative approach can greatly improve their comprehension.
It is easier to learn some words than to learn others. Encourage your pupils to take a word knowledge test to find out where they need more assistance.
To speak or use those words in sentences confidently, they need help building their confidence. It’s also possible that they need to comprehend what those words mean fully.
Ask students to engage in discussions in small groups or pairs to:
- Compare their definitions
- Discuss how they picture the terms
- Share any new background knowledge or ideas that have come to them since they learned the terms
- Identify points of misunderstanding and ask questions
For instance, the students could start by describing what they initially understood about a particular word.
Peer discussions are valuable because they generate a wide variety of perspectives, questions, and answers, which in turn create a lively learning atmosphere.
Through collaborative learning, students not only broaden their comprehension but also examine the vocabulary in various contexts, effectively clear up any ambiguity, and develop a deeper understanding of the new terms.
Without a doubt, the most crucial aspect of learning is social interaction, and promoting student-to-student conversations aids in vocabulary learning and retention.
Actively exchanging ideas and clearing up misunderstandings enhances learning and increases effectiveness and engagement.
Encourage your students to look for new words regularly. But they should not stop there.
They should use them in everyday conversations, which will help them understand the words even more. Using notebooks in this step can also be very helpful.
You might also like: Expand Your Word Bank: 19 Strategies for Students to Improve Vocabulary
6. Use games: Encourage students to play word games
Towards the end of the learning process, Marzano’s method focuses on vocabulary-building games and activities. Playing video games is one of the most underappreciated instructional resources in education.
Game-based learning primarily focuses on integrating game elements and concepts into classroom instruction.
Among the tools and concepts that encourage and involve students in their education are point systems, badges, discussion boards, leaderboards, quizzes, and classroom response systems.
There is more to game-based learning than just assigning educational games to students. It also involves reorienting both the way that students approach learning and the way that learning approaches students.
Involve students in games to enjoy the learning process, which is the ultimate goal of implementing these teaching styles.
There is nothing new about these game strategies in the classroom. Since the beginning of recorded human history, we have utilized games and competitions to support and direct the acquisition of new skills.
Did you know, for instance, that strategic thinking was taught using chess as early as the Middle Ages?
A variety of games can support educators in helping students revisit their understanding of new terms and keep them at the forefront of their minds.
Setting aside time each week for games is crucial for energizing students and assisting them in the review and application of key vocabulary.
Adding gamification to the school curriculum improves engagement and learning outcomes, as research has repeatedly demonstrated.
Students who engage in educational games for vocabulary enrichment outperform those who only use conventional teaching methods on vocabulary assessments.
Turning tedious tasks into thrilling adventures is one way games can make learning enjoyable. They add a healthy dose of competition, motivation, and enjoyment to the learning process.
There are many enjoyable and captivating activities and vocabulary games:
- Word searches
- Crossword puzzles
- Memory games
- Sentence building
According to an American Psychological Association study, learning games help kids become more engaged, emotionally stable, and socially adept.
For instance, a teacher might ask pupils to write or speak any words that come to mind when they hear a target word.
When done verbally, this is a great little activity for those brief periods of time when students have to wait in line for lunch or recess or in the final minutes before switching lessons.
Students can complete this activity as a class, in small groups, in pairs, or individually. After a set amount of time, the teacher should ask the class to stop brainstorming related words.
The last person to say a word, if students have been saying words aloud, then gives a brief explanation of how that word relates to the target word.
Once students have written lists of words on their own, they can exchange lists and ask each other to define any terms that are unclear or weird.
You can enhance your students’ language proficiency by organizing vocabulary games in the classroom.
Takeaway: Acquire more vocabulary with Marzano’s Approach
Increasing your vocabulary is a useful skill that you can apply to a variety of situations. You can use this knowledge for your career advancement, personal growth, and academic success.
Marzano’s 6-Step Approach is a tried-and-true method for improving your vocabulary. Whether you are a parent, teacher, student, or simply someone who enjoys language, completing these steps can open up a new world of possibilities.
Words are the building blocks of communication, and having a larger vocabulary will help you express your ideas and thoughts more clearly. Therefore, start your vocabulary-improvement journey right away.
Take a look at our Maximizing Memory course to learn valuable insights into improving your memory, which will enable you to expand your vocabulary. Embark on this journey with us to enrich your word bank.