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What is Tier Two and Academic Vocabulary?

17 Nov

What is Tier Two Vocabulary and why is it so important to focus on when teaching vocabulary?

The term Tier Two Vocabulary refers to one of the three “tiers” of vocabulary outlined by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan in their books “Bringing words to life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction” and “Creating robust vocabulary: Frequently asked questions and extended examples”. The tiers represent an excellent system for differentiating between different types of vocabulary.

The three tiers are:

  • Tier One: words used in everyday speech, usually learned in early grades, typically the least challenging for native speakers but will be more challenging for English language learner (e.g., small, mother, run)
  • Tier Two (also referred to as general academic words in the Common Core Standard): high-frequency, more likely to appear in written material than in everyday speech, words that appear across many different kinds of texts (e.g., informational, technical, and literary), and often represent subtle or precise ways to say simpler things (e.g., mention instead of say, consider instead of think)
  • Tier Three: low-frequency, specialized words that are specific to a domain (e.g., solar system, continent); more common in informational texts than in literature; often explicitly defined in the text or taught by the teacher who is focusing on that particular content

Tiers of Vocabulary Graphic - Tier Two

While all tiers are important, teaching Tier Two words can have a tremendous impact on comprehension because of their usefulness in multiple contexts and across a variety of content areas. If a student learns a Tier Two word that will be found across multiple content areas they are learning, this will have a large positive impact on their comprehension in all areas, whereas a Tier Three word specific to a content area would only be relevant to that area.

Teaching Tier Two vocabulary words can often slip through the cracks since they are not unique to a particular content area. They are typically not explicitly defined in the texts which they appear and are less likely to be defined by contextual cues in the text. This makes it even more difficult for students who may have weak vocabulary skills, speech and language delays, or are English language learners to learn these vital words.

There is no one list of Tier Two words to teach. Every curriculum unit will have different Tier Two words so one way to identify Tier Two words is to pull out the texts that will be used in a unit, make lists of vocabulary used in the texts and then sort the words into the different tiers. Pick the Tier Two words that seem most applicable to your child or group of children. There are also some pre-made lists and materials available if that is easier.

If you are interested in a pre-made Tier Two Vocabulary Curriculum Packet check out either my Tier Two Vocabulary Activity Pack for Second and Third Grade or my Tier Two Vocabulary Activity Pack for Fourth and Fifth Grade.

In a future blog post, I will focus on strategies for teaching the Tier Two vocabulary that you have identified!

Tier Two Vocabulary CurriculumTier Two Vocabulary for 4th and 5th Graders


Regular and Irregular Past Tense Verbs Combo Pack

3 Nov

Past Tense Verbs CoverI’m so excited to get started using my Amazing Verbs Regular and Irregular Past Tense Verbs Combo Pack with my kids this week! I have several students working on past tense verbs on my caseload. I have had a hard time finding an organized way to teach both regular and irregular verbs to my kids because some are readers and some are non-readers. They also get bored very easily so I quickly exhausted my past tense activities and worksheets. This pack is my solution to those problems. It is 62 pages, so no chance of running out of activities!

The whole pack has a fun superhero theme and is organized into a regular past tense verbs,  irregular past tense verbs, and mixed regular/irregular past tense verbs. There are 20 regular and 20 irregular past tense verbs targeted.

For both regular and irregular past tense verbs there are pre/post tests, worksheets, sorting mats, game cards, and bingo!

Past Tense Worksheet PreviewPast Tense Sorting Mat Preview

One of my favorite parts of the packet are the Silly Actions Game Cards. The game cards give a funny action to do (“Paint a picture of your face in the air”, “Lick the biggest ice cream cone in the world”). After the student does the funny action, they have to tell what they did using the verb (i.e. “I painted a picture of my face”, “I licked the biggest ice cream cone in the world”).

Past Tense Game Cards Preview

Click on the contents page below to see everything that is included.

Past Tense Contents Preview

Over at Teachers Pay Teachers you can download a free preview that shows more of the activities. Here is the link to the Super Verbs Regular and Irregular Past Tense Verbs Combo Pack on Teachers Pay Teachers. It is on sale for the first 3 days!

See Touch Learn Pro – iPad App Review

23 Sep

I have been using the See. Touch. Learn. Pro App from Brain Parade quite a bit over the last year, so it’s definitely time I reviewed it. Last year, when I only had preschoolers on my caseload this is the app that I used by far the most. There is a free version which is great if you just want to get an idea of how the app works. I bought the pro version ($39.99) because it comes with over 4,000 images and allows you to use your own images to make activities. Another great perk of the pro version is access to the “community” which is a section you can go to download activities and picture libraries that other user have created and uploaded.

The app is organized into “Lessons”, “Libraries”, “Community”, and “Settings” sections. The “Settings” screen lets you control several aspects of the lessons like whether you want to show text prompts, automatically advance to the next exercise after a correct choice, or wiggle an incorrect card (I have this one set to “off” because my kids loved making the card wiggle and kept touching the incorrect cards and laughing their heads off!).

The “Libraries” section shown below, shows you all the picture libraries that are available to download organized into sections. In this section you can also make your own libraries if you have the Pro version by downloading pictures from the internet or adding them from your Camera Roll. The ability to add your own pictures is so cool because you can make activities completely customized to your students.

See Touch Learn Libraries

The “Lessons” section shown below, comes with a ton of pre-made activities. They are organized into categories like “Objects”, “People”, and “Other”. As you make your own activities you chose a category to place the activity in. I wish there was flexibility here to create your own categories because I end up adding a lot of the activities I have made into the “Other” category. The pre-made activities offer a great way to get started right away using the app and cover lots of academic and language concepts. You can also edit the pre-made activities by making a duplicate of the activity and then editing it to your liking. The thing I like least about the pre-made activities is the digitized voice that says the prompts. My kids found it hard to understand so I ended up editing any activity I wanted to use frequently by adding my own voice as the prompt. It’s great that you can record your own voice for the prompts, it just takes a bit of time.

See Touch Learn ActivitiesOn the Lessons screen you can create folders to organize your activities a little more. You can see that I have created a “Preschool” folder. I put the pre-made activities I liked for my preschoolers as well as the activities I made in that folder. I plan on making an “Elementary” folder as soon as I get some more time to start making some activities for my elementary kids.

When you select an activity, a screen comes up showing all the parts of the activity. From this screen, you can choose to play the activity or edit it. There is also a setting now in the Lessons screen that allows you to choose “Play Mode” so if a child is using the App they will only be able to play activities not edit them.

See Touch Learn ActivityOnce you select “Play Lesson”, the activity opens and the prompt is read. When the child selects the correct picture(s), a reinforcement sound is played (you can change this in the Settings screen). I wish there was an option in the Settings screen for randomly playing a reinforcement sound because it gets a little repetitive hearing the same reinforcement sound over and over again through an activity.

See Touch Learn Category ActivityThis photo shows a categories activity I made for my preschoolers. The activities focus mostly on receptive academic and language skills although you can make any of the activities expressive as well by requiring your child to give you an expressive response before moving on. The best part of the app is the wide variety of language goals you can target with it. I have made activities for all types of “WH” questions, vocabulary, object functions, what goes together, pronouns, concepts, action words, categories, and negation! I think that is what makes this app worth the price.

I plan on making a lot of new activities with the app for my elementary students. It would be easy to make a quick comprehension test for any book you are reading, custom vocabulary cards, and really anything that you would do with flashcards normally. My kids are much more motivated to use the iPad than flashcards any day!


  • Huge picture library
  • Allows you to add your own pictures
  • Allows you to create and customize activities
  • Motivating for kids
  • Access to Community activities


  • Price
  • Digital voice difficult to understand
  • Reinforcement sounds get repetitive

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this app for speech pathologists, special educators, and teachers. If you enjoy making your own activities and customizing, I think you will particularly love this app. If you just want to use the app as is, you may get a little frustrated. It is worth it to take the time to make some awesome, custom activities!

If you have any questions about what the app can do or be used for, please post them in the comments below.

Miss Nelson is Missing! Language and Artic Unit

22 Sep

This year I have groups filled with kids who have very different goals. Even when I have a group of three “language” kids, they all seem to have different goals. This makes it a bit tougher to select activities that cover all their goals in a session. I also have groups that have one language kid, one pragmatic kid, and one language/artic kid. Tricky! My solution for this year is going to be doing lots of literature units. Literature units are great for being able to hit lots of different goals in one session. Plus I just love including books in my sessions and kids seem to love it too.

Miss Nelson Is Missing - Language and ArticulationMy first literature unit this year is going to be on the book, “Miss Nelson is Missing!” This book is very entertaining and good for a variety of grade/ability levels. It is also short enough to read in one or two half hour sessions depending on how much you stretch it out. I searched around for some pre-made activities for the book and while there are loads around, none really suited my needs for directly targeting most language and pragmatic goals. There was nothing I could find focusing on articulation targets. The book is actually fantastic to use for articulation because it is loaded with “R”, “S”, and “L” words (among others!).

So as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention”, and because of that my Miss Nelson is Missing! Language, Pragmatics, and Articulation Unit was born.

It has a bunch of different activities to cover language, pragmatic, and articulation goals. Here are some of the goals that it can be used to target:

Reading/listening comprehension
Synonyms and antonyms
WH Questions – who, where, and why
Past tense verbs – regular and irregular
Describing and comparing/contrasting
Pragmatics – expected vs. unexpected behaviors, perspective taking, feelings, problem solving
Articulation – /r/, /s/, and /l/ in words, sentences, and reading

It includes worksheets for language and pragmatic targets:

Miss Nelson Who Questions Worksheet WatermarkMiss Nelson Perspective Taking Preview Watermarked

Game cards and a game board to work on comprehension, synonyms/antonyms, vocabulary, and more.

Miss Nelson Game Cards Preview WatermarkedMiss Nelson Game Board Preview Watermark

Articulation worksheets and SLP data sheets for taking data while student’s read from the reader’s theater pages.
Miss Nelson Readers Theater Data Preview WatermarkedIt’s 39 pages of activities so plenty of things to cover several therapy sessions. I plan on using it over the next 2-3 weeks with my groups that come two times a week.

The Miss Nelson is Missing Literature Unit can be found over on Teachers Pay Teacher here.

Pronouns Interactive Game for Preschool and Up

20 Sep

It’s been a busy week of getting to know my new kids and starting therapy, so I haven’t had a chance to post about the new activity I made. I have kids on my caseload (and always do) that have pronouns goals. Flashcards work for my older kids but don’t keep my preschoolers’ interest so I created a hands on activity to keep them interested while we work on pronouns. It is also great for working on plurals, is/are verb+ing, and general sentence structure.

Pronouns Preschool Speech Therapy GameSince it is food-based, I decided to name it the Yum Yum Pronouns Game. It focuses on the pronouns “he”, “she”, and “they”. It’s a printable game that includes game cards that show either a girl, boy, or girl and boy as well as a food item. A child picks a card and labels it with whatever language targets you are working on. It could be “he/she is eating an ______” if you would like to use present progressive verb tenses or “they ate two apples” if you would like the child to use past tense verbs. It also has large pictures of a girl, boy, and girl and boy; as well as lots of small food picture cards that correspond to the foods on the game cards. Those pictures are sized to fit a square tissue box. I cut out the mouth areas on the picture and on the box, so when a child chooses a game card they can then find the matching food and feed it to the matching boy, girl, or boy and girl. After a child completes their turn they get to keep the game card and the player with the most cards at the end is the winner. To make the game more exciting, there are also “Ants! Lose a Card!” and “Ice Cream Truck! Take Another Turn!” cards.

I also included printable dice templates so that the game could be played in a more open-ended manner. To play the dice version of the game, roll both dice then choose a food picture that matches the food showing on the dice and feed it to the matching person/people while labeling what you are doing (i.e., “She is eating ice cream”).

If you do not want to put the pictures on a tissue box, you can also just tape them to the front of a sandwich baggie and cut out the mouth holes to still have an interactive game. I also thought this format  would be great to adapt to work on the dreaded “I” and “You” pronouns by putting a picture of the child and a parent or teacher on the box. Then you could take turns feeding each person targeting things like “I am eating a cookie” and “You are eating a banana”. Working on “I” and “you” is so tough I am constantly trying to think of ways to work on it!

I made the game to keep my preschoolers interested, but it works great with any age child who is working on pronouns. I used it with kids all the way up to third grade this week and got rave reviews!

If you would like the game, it is available on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

Tier Two Vocabulary Activities for Fourth and Fifth Grade

15 Sep

Tier Two Vocabulary for 4th and 5th GradersLast week I posted about my Tier Two Vocabulary Activity Pack for Second and Third Graders and have been working furiously this week to finish up my Tier Two Vocabulary Curriculum and Activities pack for Fourth and Fifth Graders.

Therapy starts tomorrow and I wanted to have this pack ready to go with my large group of fourth and fifth graders with vocabulary and semantic goals. This pack has similar activities to those in the Second and Third Grade pack with a few additional activities to target figurative language and antonyms since those are goals that Fourth and Fifth graders often have. Figurative language is also part of the Common Core Standards for Fourth and Fifth grade.

Like the Second and Third Grade pack, this pack targets 60 tier two words (30 at each grade level) with worksheets, game cards, “Apples to Apples” style game cards, graphic organizers, and word wall visuals.

Worksheets and Cards Preview

I can’t wait to get started with all these vocabulary activities with my kids. I have never had an organized system for teaching vocabulary while working on other goals as well. I feel much better this year having a plan and ready to go activities to really get my kid’s vocabulary skills going!

You can find the pack here over on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Tier Two Vocabulary Activities for Second and Third Graders

8 Sep

Now that I know my caseload for this year I have discovered that I have a huge group of second through fifth graders with vocabulary and semantic goals. Many of them are English Language Learners as well! I realized I am going to need a very systematic way to address my kid’s semantic goals so that they make progress and I don’t go crazy!

To teach vocabulary this year I have decided to focus on “tier two” words. What are tier two words? Tier two vocabulary words are high-frequency words that occur throughout multiple domains and have been shown to strongly impact speaking and reading. They are crucial for reading comprehension and increasing a student’s descriptive vocabulary. Basically, they are the words that give you the biggest bang for your buck when teaching vocabulary!

Tier Two Vocabulary CurriculumI developed this Tier Two Vocabulary Curriculum and Activities Pack for second and third graders (or older kids working at that level) with an eye on identifying a set of words for each grade level and then creating activities and games that will target those words. I also focused on including activities that increase comprehension and word-learning strategies like using context clues, formulating sentences, and connecting words to the kid’s own lives.

The pack has 60 tier two words targeted (30 at each grade level). The words are broken up into 10 units with 6 words in each unit. Each unit has worksheets and game cards for all of the words. The game cards can be used with any turn-taking game or board game. They are divided into three categories – synonyms, multiple choice, and connections (open ended questions connecting the vocabulary to something they know.)

An example of one of the worksheets in the pack

An example of one of the worksheets in the pack

I want to make a word wall this year so I included all the words on word wall card cutouts in three different designs so you can either use a lot of color ink or just a little bit of black ink – your choice! I tried to keep the amount of ink used to a minimum throughout the packet because that stuff is expensive!

Chevron preview

There are also graphic organizers included so your kids can make a vocabulary notebook or keep track of the words they are learning. I think my favorite part of the pack are the “Apples to Apples” style cards included that target all 20 adjectives that are targeted in the curriculum. My kids and I never get sick of “Apples to Apples” so I can’t wait to sneak their vocabulary targets in!

I am working on finishing up a pack for my fourth and fifth graders as well. This project definitely kept growing bigger than I originally planned and there are still more things to add to it I just need to find the time!

You can find the pack on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

If you have any ideas for the types of activities you would like to see added to this kind of a packet please let me know!

Multisyllabic Words Articulation and Language for Preschool

3 Sep

I always have a few little ones on my caseload working on multisyllabic words or decreasing syllable reduction. I’ve always struggled with getting enough repetitions out of my preschoolers in particular since drilling is usually not in the cards (literally, as in flashcards aren’t going to cut it with these busy bodies, ha!) Also, many of the picture sets I have seen out there have word targets that are not appropriate for preschoolers. I also rarely have a group of preschoolers that is working on articulation exclusively so I need activities that can target articulation goals as well. With those two things in mind I decided to create a packet of lots of hands on activities, targeting multisyllabic words that are appropriate for preschoolers, and with language activities integrated into them.

My Multisyllabic Words Articulation and Language Combo Pack I think fits the bill! It targets 10 three syllable animals (elephant, bumblebee, dinosaur…), 10 three syllable common items (banana, hamburger, camera…), and 4 four syllable items (watermelon, caterpillar…) in a variety of activities.

Multisyllabic Artic and Language PreviewContents of the pack are:

What Do You See? Animals! Book – repetitive line book targeting 10 three syllable animals, made in the format of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”

Multisyllabic Word Pacing Cards – Pacing cards for three and four syllable words, use the dots for kinesthetic and visual cueing, fold the dots under when the child doesn’t need the cueing any longer.

Multisyllabic Word Bingo – Bingo game boards targeting three and four syllable words

Multisyllabic Word WH Questions – questions targeting three and four syllable words, can be used in conjunction with the bingo game

Three Syllable Animals File Folder Game – file folder style matching game target three syllable animals, match the animals to the blank spots on the board.

Big and Little Three Syllable Word Cards – big and little picture cards for targeting three syllable words in phrases, qualitative concepts, and word combinations.

Here are some pictures of a few of the activities:

What Do You See PreviewPacing Cards PreviewFile Folder Game Preview

It’s available for download on Teachers Pay Teachers here. Hope you and your kiddos enjoy it!