vocabulary-graphic-organizers-featured-imageThe development of vocabulary skills is one of the most important aspects of learning in elementary school. Some of your students may already have a robust vocabulary while others may need a little more guidance and support when exploring the wonderful world of words.

No matter what the case may be, having printable vocabulary graphic organizers can help your young students learn new words in an organized way so that they can incorporate those new words into their writing and verbal communication.

Essentially, using effective teaching techniques to develop your students’ vocabulary skills during elementary school is conducive to further their education and sets them up for success later on in life.

While good vocabulary skills are important to your students’ quality of writing, the act of writing in and of itself is one of the best ways to develop vocabulary at a young age. Exposing students to reading and writing on a consistent basis is the best way to prepare them for the future.

An excellent way to get your young students excited about writing is to compile all of their work into a published classbook using our classbook kit. Let’s be honest, what elementary schooler wouldn’t want to become a published author?

Below you will find strategies to help you to further develop your students’ vocabulary skills. These strategies combined with our helpful vocabulary graphic organizers are guaranteed to set your students up for success! First, we are going to briefly discuss the three tiers of vocabulary words.

Three Tiers of Vocabulary Words


Vocabulary words are typically organized into three tiers. These tiers were created to help teachers determine what level of difficulty is most effective for different grade levels, as well as for their individual students.

Tier one vocabulary words are used in the English language on a regular basis. Your students are likely to learn these words simply through everyday conversations with friends and family members.

Examples of words from the first tier include floor, river, run, pillow, game and any other simplistic words that describe actions and objects that are present in children’s daily lives.

Students often enter kindergarten and first grade with at least some knowledge of tier one vocabulary words.

Tier two vocabulary words are generally more difficult for young kids to understand. Though these vocabulary words may be longer and more difficult to pronounce, they don’t necessarily have to be.

Words categorized into the second tier are used less frequently in day-to-day conversation and because of this, children are not exposed to them nearly as often. Tier two words are often synonymous with other, more commonly used words.

For example, a first grader likely knows what a store is, but they may not know what a market is. A second or third grader is familiar with the word book, but may not be familiar with the word novel.

Tier three words are used even less frequently than tier two words and are typically associated with academic subject matter. Examples of tier three vocabulary words include circumference, exponent, synonym and antonym. These words are often learned through continued education in specific areas, such as mathematics and language arts later on - we will cover these in our fourth and fifth grade sections.

Vocabulary Teaching Methods for Elementary Students


There are two vocabulary instruction methods that are commonly used for teaching kindergarteners and first graders: direct vocabulary instruction and vocabulary strategy instruction.

Direct vocabulary instruction is exactly what it sounds like: a more direct approach to teaching students new vocabulary words. You simply tell their students exactly what a vocabulary word means, and then use different activities to help your students to gain a better understanding of how the word is used.

Vocabulary strategy instruction is a more involved method of teaching new words to your students. It encourages them to work alongside you or their classmates to determine the meaning of a new word. This can be done by teaching your students to utilize context clues and other resources (like a dictionary) to discover how the word is used.

Both strategies can be equally effective if utilized properly. One is not simply better than the other, but experimenting with both can help teachers to determine which one is more effective with their class and their individual students.

Vocabulary Graphic Organizer for Kindergarteners and First Graders​

Vocabulary instruction for lower grade levels is typically geared towards the first and second tier, as students most likely have some experience with tier one words, and the goal is to expand their vocabulary to include more complex words and phrases.

Although your students may be familiar with tier one words in verbal speech, there is a huge difference between simply knowing what a word means and actually using that word in reading and writing.

It is crucial that teachers help their students to become fluent in their use of tier one words, while also taking the time to teach newer, more advanced words from tiers two and three.

Plus, every student learns at a different pace. Some children may enter kindergarten with a higher level of understanding than other students. Whether or not this is because their parents have worked with them on reading and vocabulary beforehand, some students may require some extra time spent on those more elementary vocabulary words.

Take a look at our free vocabulary graphic organizer that has been designed specifically for helping students in kindergarten and first grade strengthen their word choice. This graphic organizer can be used for any creative writing activity. Kids who are in the early stages of elementary school often struggle with what words mean and how they are actually used.

Pairing this graphic organizer hand-in-hand with a narrative writing activity is a great way to encourage students to express their creativity, while also increasing their understanding of how certain words should or should not be used in different contexts.

Click to Preview and Download The Graphic Organizer


Vocabulary Graphic Organizer for 2nd and 3rd Graders

By the time students have reached the second or third grade level, they are either approaching or have already passed the halfway point of their elementary school career. Likewise, they probably now have a better grasp of those tier one, tier two and even tier three vocabulary words.

However, we also know that as these kids get a little bit older, they tend to adopt a “too cool for school” kind of attitude, which, unfortunately, also translates to a “too cool for vocabulary words” kind of attitude.

Plain old vocabulary quizzes and tests don’t elicit all that much excitement from young kids. This is why it is very important to come up with ways for them to expand their vocabulary that are not only conducive to learning, but also fun!

If you are looking for another fun activity to keep your students engaged in their vocabulary instruction, print off our second and third grade vocabulary graphic organizer. It’s perfect for kids in the intermediate grade levels of elementary school and is focused specifically on verb and adjective use.

Click below for a preview of the graphic organizer and feel free to download as many as you need for your class!

Click to Preview and Download The Graphic Organizer

Alongside this graphic organizer, you could assign your students a list of ten different adjectives and verbs and require them to incorporate them into a short story. Things are bound to get silly! Not only is this a fun activity, but it will also improve their descriptive vocabulary in their writing.

Vocabulary Graphic Organizer for 4th and 5th Graders​

As students reach the higher grade levels and their maturity and intelligence improves, more advanced forms of education can be employed to keep increasing their reading, writing and vocabulary skills.

One of the best ways to improve their literacy skill set all at once is by assigning more demanding writing assignments. Just remember, demanding is a term that is relative to all grade levels. What’s demanding for a ninth grader is much different than what is demanding for a fifth grader.

You want to challenge your students more when they reach the fourth and fifth grade, so this can be the perfect time to introduce them to some of those tier 3 words. Now that they are getting closer and closer to middle school, it is important that they are educated about some of the more advanced topics that come to play in future grade levels.

Just make sure not to go too overboard in terms of difficulty. You don’t want to turn your students away from writing. You want them to enjoy it!

When Teacher Appreciation Week comes around, have them write a letter to one of their previous teachers. By this point they have likely had at least four or five different teachers. They can talk about how much they miss being in his or her class and reflect on some good memories they made that year.

This kind of activity is a great introduction to an important life skill and will teach them the importance of being thankful and acknowledging others for the things they have done for them.

Our fourth and fifth grade vocabulary graphic organizer is designed to help students understand the importance of not overusing certain words. Writing that becomes repetitive due to the overuse of certain words and phrases can turn people away, so this is an important skill to learn at a young age.

Click below for a preview of the graphic organizer and feel free to download as many as you need for your class!

Click to Preview and Download The Graphic Organizer

A fun project to help improve students’ writing skills and get their creative juices flowing is to have them come up with their own characters and then write a story about those characters where they are placed in unique scenarios. After they have written the story, they can go back and replace words that have been overused to give the narrative a little more flow.

You could even have your students revise each other’s stories and replace overused words, which can be a great way to introduce them to the peer editing process.

Once the class is entirely finished with the writing assignment, you can use Studentreasures’ classbook kit to compile all of their work into a single book, which you can then publish into a one-of-a-kind book. This will get your students super excited about finishing their stories and will encourage them to put forth their best effort.

Of course, the simple act of reading is an excellent way for students to expand their vocabulary and literacy skills. The benefits of reading are practically endless, and, as students progress further and further into their elementary school career, their ability to read more complex novels will increase.

Carving out a block of time each day dedicated specifically to quiet, individual reading promotes healthy learning and gives students a nice break from the occasional, chaotic nature of a busy school day. You could even let them bring a snack each day, just for this specific time.

We have several resources available in our Teachers Lounge that are designed to enrich your students’ learning and improve your capabilities as an educator. Stop by our website and become a part of our amazing community of teachers today!