Practical Tips & Tools

Basic Literacy & Numeracy

Teaching Vocabulary: Form, Meaning, Use

May 20, 2022

This article by ProLiteracy New Readers Press sales representative Rebecca Eller-Molitas was originally published at:  

Unlike grammar, vocabulary tends to change every year. Some words “retire” while other words are born. 

Teaching vocabulary can be challenging, and I’m often asked to do training on this for tutors. Every student and every teacher have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to vocabulary. 

To be sure you’re teaching effectively, be sure to focus on all three components of vocabulary development. 

1) Form: 

Form includes pronunciation, spelling, and word parts. 

To master form, students should know what the word sounds like, looks like, and what recognizable parts are included. Think prefixes, suffixes, and root words. 

They should also know how the word is pronounced and written. 


2) Meaning:  

Meaning is the concept conveyed by a word or by a phrase. It may require the learner to make associations between concepts. 

To master meaning, a student should know when a word can only be used in certain contexts, what other words are related, and what form or tense best expresses intended meaning. 


3) Use:  

Use includes knowledge of grammatical functions such as gerunds, nouns, verbs, etc. It also includes the ability to recognize a word as being used formally or casually and recognition of other words that typically go together—for example: in front of

To master use, a student should know where and when they can use a word in the real world outside the classroom and if certain patterns are needed—for example: adjectives in front of nouns as in white car, blue house, etc.