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Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction [Paperback]

Isabel L. Beck , Margaret G. McKeown , Linda Kucan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 20, 2002 1572307536 978-1572307537 1
Exciting and engaging vocabulary instruction can set students on the path to a lifelong fascination with words. This book provides a research-based framework and practical strategies for vocabulary development with children from the earliest grades through high school. The authors emphasize instruction that offers rich information about words and their uses and enhances students' language comprehension and production. Teachers are guided in selecting words for instruction; developing student-friendly explanations of new words; creating meaningful learning activities; and getting students involved in thinking about, using, and noticing new words both within and outside the classroom. Many concrete examples, sample classroom dialogues, and exercises for teachers bring the material to life. Helpful appendices include suggestions for trade books that help children enlarge their vocabulary and/or have fun with different aspects of words.

Editorial Reviews


"Vocabulary is the bedrock supporting academic language proficiency. Without any doubt, speech-language pathologists recognize the critical importance of vocabulary learning for children and adolescents struggling with language and literacy learning. The challenge is how we can better support genuine vocabulary learning so that struggling students will be better positioned to meet the new reading and writing standards. This book offers speech-language pathologists a strong conceptual framework and evidence-based strategies for achieving the goal of functional vocabulary learning. The rich and detailed strategies are presented in a highly readable way. This accessibility allows the creative speech-language clinician to find many ideas that can easily be adapted into meaningful strategies for boosting the authentic word knowledge that most students with language learning disabilities urgently need for attaining academic language proficiency."--Elaine R. Silliman, PhD, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of South Florida

"This little book is a gem. It shows how teachers can teach word meanings so powerfully that students of all ages will be able to grasp an author's meaning or communicate their own more effectively. The book offers a well-organized and first-rate plan for teaching vocabulary, presented by a team of researchers with a genuine grasp of the practical."--Timothy Shanahan, PhD, Center for Literacy, University of Illinois at Chicago

"This book succinctly addresses the challenges of teaching and developing vocabulary, providing research-based, clearly spelled-out strategies and many, many rich examples. It gives teachers the tools they need to effectively increase students' vocabularies. Reflecting the authors' own expertise with words, the book is written clearly enough for undergraduates, yet has a level of depth that will lend new insights to even the most advanced student of language and literacy. This book should be required reading in teacher and reading specialist preparation programs and should be used in in-service programs with reading, language arts, and English teachers as well as with content area teachers. If the strategies and suggestions offered in this book were widely and intensely implemented, we would see significant increases in students' verbal abilities and reading comprehension scores."--John J. Pikulski, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware

"Bringing Words to Life lives up to its title. It made me want to gather a group of kids immediately, so I could start putting these sensible, practical, novel, and intriguing ideas about building vocabulary into practice. Beck, McKeown, and Kucan show how much fun learning words and teaching words can be. Every early childhood and elementary teacher should have this book on their bedside table for inspirational reading."--Catherine E. Snow, PhD, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University

"All educators who are lovers of the English language will thoroughly enjoy and reap the benefits of this articulate book. The authors present a brilliant rationale for delivering lively and direct vocabulary instruction. They offer excellent advice on how to select rich words, present them to students, and help them revel in their usefulness!"--MaryAnne Rossbach, MEd, sixth-grade teacher, Sunrise Valley Elementary School, Reston, VA

"Creating Robust Vocabulary was developed as a companion volume to Bringing Word to Life....The two volumes together provide invaluable classroom resources for teachers....Beck, McKeown, and Kucan's indispensable scholarship....provides teachers with a coherent and compelling framework for changing the landscape of vocabulary instruction in their classrooms."--Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
(Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 2002-03-22)

About the Author

Isabel L. Beck, PhD, is Professor Emerita of Education in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She has conducted research and published widely in the areas of decoding, vocabulary, and comprehension. Her contributions have been acknowledged by awards from the International Reading Association, the National Reading Conference, and the American Federation of Teachers, and she is an elected member of the National Academy of Education.


Margaret G. McKeown, PhD, is a Senior Scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center of the University of Pittsburgh. Her research on reading comprehension and vocabulary has been published extensively in outlets for both researcher and practitioner audiences. Dr. McKeown is a recipient of the Dissertation of the Year Award from the International Reading Association and a National Academy of Education Spencer Fellowship. Before her career in research, she taught elementary school.


Linda Kucan, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Instruction and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. In addition to vocabulary instruction, her research interests include classroom talk about texts and the design of meaningful and motivating tasks to support comprehension of text.

Product Details

  • Series: Solving Problems in the Teaching of Literacy
  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: The Guilford Press; 1 edition (March 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572307536
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572307537
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding resource! August 16, 2004
This book is by far the best resource on vocabulary instruction available today. In my work with teachers, this book has had the best reception with practicing teachers of any book I have used. I has been a very popular selection for professional book clubs.

The authors use common-sense language to explain how to make vocabulary instruction meaningful--and why many commonly used techniques are ineffective. Of the essential elements of reading instruction, vocabulary has easily been the most neglected, despite its clear connection with reading comprehensioin. This book provides teachers with real, usable methods that have been proven effective.

Every teacher should read this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Refreshing Solution to Dry Vocabulary Instruction October 19, 2005
I still remember when my high school teachers would assign the dreaded weekly vocabulary homework. We would painstakingly look up each word in the dictionary, write down what was usually the shortest definition, and then take a wild stab at writing the word in a sentence. I'm not sure how many of those words I actually learned, but I do remember being bored, frustrated and confused. Dictionaries are not necessarily the only tool for deriving meaning of new words.

Thankfully, this book helps educators to realize the importance of meaningful vocabulary instruction. It outlines various techniques for robust instruction in both primary and secondary grade levels. If you teach vocabulary, you should consider this book for your collection.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
I read this for a graduate class and found it to be a quick, easy read. The authors give you simple ways to enhance your vocabulary instruction. I would recommend this book to teachers at all levels but especially those working 3rd grade and above.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lifesaver September 5, 2005
This book came during my summer vacation when my motivation to read was quite low........I read it in one sitting and got so many ideas for my work with language impaired elementary school students. It is timely and appropriate for all age levels. Many educators are looking for research based best practices and this is a great reference!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vocabulary Instruction January 21, 2005
This book is very helpful in planning vocabulary instruction in the classroom. Not only is it packed with ideas, it constantly refers to research to back up strategies.

Teachers should read it! It will help them if they need ideas and boost their confidence if they are already using some of the strategies found in the book.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Words to Life July 22, 2007
While I appreciated the premise of the research outlined in this book, and have no doubt the approach recommended would be effective, I question the practicality for application in a classroom. It seems that it would take a considerable amount of planning and cumbersome documentation particularly with younger children or multiage classes. I plan to try to implement some of the suggestions and like the idea of working to help children establish their own definitions, moving away from traditional dictionary definitions that are only confusing for young students.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Words to Life really BRINGS WORDS TO LIFE January 21, 2005
Truly Enlightening!!! Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction is THE resource book for all educators. This book is soundly researched and gives teachers practical new ideas and techninques to teach Vocabulary Instruction. "Exciting and engaging vocabulary instruction can set students on the path to a lifelong fascination with words.(Back of Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction)"
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Vocabulary Strategies April 30, 2006
Bringing Words to Life is an essential book for any classroom. It offers valuable insights and strategies for teaching vocabulary in all classrooms, elementary through high school. It's written so that it's easy to understand and each chapter ends with activities for the reader to better understand the content of the chapter. There is also an easy reference appendix for books to use with vocabulary instruction. If you're looking to enhance the vocabulary of your students, this book has everything you need!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Words to Life
This book is very helpful and has been used in preparation for teaching a class in Reading Recovery. Very helpful.
Published 3 months ago by Happy in DBQ
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent and doable therapy ideas
Great ideas and presentation for using literature to teach vocabulary. Excellent ideas for speech and language therapists to include literature or text from general education... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gail K Doscher Thompson
3.0 out of 5 stars Eh
I didn't really think it had anything new or innovative to share in vocabulary instruction. It was a quick read, but not what I thought it would be.
Published 9 months ago by Reading Momma
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic
Not just a ' good ideas for teachers' book , but a contribution to scholarly thinking on the acquisition of vocabulary which has influenced recent research into the ' shallow but... Read more
Published 10 months ago by L. Leahy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Great book and an even better price! All my classmates paid much more for their book. Thanks for the great product.
Published 10 months ago by D B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Includes many strategies for teaching vocabulary.
This book doesn't just talk about theories for teaching vocabulary. It offers a variety of approaches to successful teaching of vocabulary.
Published 14 months ago by Kat
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
The book came new, on time or better yet before the time they posted, and it's exactly what I needed for my course.
Published 17 months ago by Flor Diaz
5.0 out of 5 stars A very helpful resource
This book has been a great resource for me. It is very teacher-friendly as it explains the need for high quality vocabulary instruction and then gives a plethora of examples on... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Dani
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea!
I had to get this book for a class, and I hated it. It is meant specifically for teachers with a background in reading strategies, and not for the general spectrum of application... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Nan
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Read
I've been meaning to read this book for a while now. I finally had to read it for a class and I highly recommend it to all teachers. It is a short and easy read. Read more
Published 23 months ago by MrsK
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