Explain, Engage, Extend, Examine

Four Es of Vocabulary Instruction

  • Susan Watts-Taffe University of Cincinnati
  • Carolyn B. Gwinn Educational Consultant
  • Chris Forrest Wilson Elementary School
Keywords: vocabulary


This article presents a framework for vocabulary instruction based on research on effective approaches to teaching the meanings of individual words, including the pivotal role of student talk in word learning. The Four Es approach encourages teachers to (1) use language that is understandable to students, (2) identify misunderstandings and correct them within a meaningful context, and (3) point out relationships among words. Students are encouraged to (1) move vocabulary from the receptive to the expressive, (2) add to and draw from the collective prior knowledge that develops through the sharing of information and experiences, and (3) take risks with word learning. The article includes a summary of related research, two extended classroom examples, a discussion of how to select words for instruction, and approaches to assessing student word learning.


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