Tier 2 Vocabulary By Grade

Vocabulary intervention is quite prevalent for children with language disorders! We know this. 

However, knowing what to do and having the right materials isn't always as easy. Below, I outline how I target tier 2 vocabulary and why. 

Tier 2 Vocabulary

Tier 2 vocabulary consists of high-frequency words that can be used across subjects, settings, and/or domains. 

  • Some examples include: follow, example, measure.

Speech therapists tend to focus on this tier since students/clients will hear and use these words throughout the day as they pop up across different classes and settings (school, grocery store, home).

Tier 2 Vocabulary Instruction

The most important thing I remember each time I work on vocabulary is that I MUST FOCUS on vocabulary DEPTH NOT BREADTH. Sort of knowing a lot of words doesn't do us much good!

We all know from experience that if we simply memorize definitions/words without relating and attaching meaning to them, we most likely will forget them or have a hard time retrieving them. They don't make their way to our long term memory in a meaningful way.

I always think about my first semester, freshman year of college. I had to memorize every country in Africa and all their capitals. I did and I got 100%! However, 19 years later, I can't name all the countries any more and I don't even know one capital. Ugh!!

To fix this, I have created materials that focus on DEPTH

They include the following....

Explicit Teaching

Explicitly telling a child the definition of a vocabulary word is surprisingly overlooked. We tend to skip to the contextual part. 

To fix this, I always review the definition while pairing it with a visual. 

Using the no-print format, I can first probe to see if a student already knows the definition and/or check for any background knowledge. Once I see what they already know, I click on the screen and the definition appears. 

Phonological Awareness

To relate phonological awareness to the vocabulary word, I do a quick slide for rhyming and first sound & last sound identification. This helps with retrieval. 

Background Knowledge

What does the child already know? Can I relate a personal experience to their new vocabulary word?

I have the child share a personal story using the new vocabulary word. I use the prompts below. 


I provide the students with a picture and ask a reasoning question relating to the new tier 2 vocabulary word. This strategy helps connect background knowledge and higher-level thinking skills with their new vocabulary word!


To make this semantic web stronger, I have the children complete synonym and naming tasks.

It is crucial to relate the new tier 2 word to words they already know.


The last slide is my favorite! Applying new vocabulary knowledge across settings and tasks is essential!

I challenge my students to pick a book or video. While reading/watching, we have to answer the challenge questions which include all tier 2 vocabulary words just practiced.


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