Anchored Word Learning: Read Alouds with a Purpose

Read alouds are the perfect venue for providing a model of fluent reading, talking about text, and building comprehension skills. 

Additionally, read alouds provide an integrated  way for introducing vocabulary in a meaningful context. Anchored Word Learning (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002) is one of my favorite strategies for introducing targeted words with young children. With early learners, picture books have a higher level vocabulary not typically found in leveled texts.

Anchored Word Learning is easy to incorporate into daily read alouds with the simple steps outlined below.

3 Prep Steps read aloud word wall

  1. Select a read-aloud. This is an easy step. Choose from books by favorite authors, recommended books, new books, old favorites, picture and trade books. You get the idea.
  2. Identify three words for instruction. As teachers preview the book or chapter, select three Tier 2 words which will expand students’ vocabulary and will likely appear in varied contexts.
  3. Mark the words with a post-it note. This actually has two steps embedded. First, place a post-it note on the pages where each word appears. Next, write the three words on a separate post-it and place this note inside the front cover of the book. That way, it serves as a reminder of the targeted words when you reread the book the following year. And, doing both these things saves valuable prep time in future years.

4 Steps During the Read Aloud

The four simple steps are summarized below in the infographic. I also suggest a 5th step which is to provide extended opportunities for revisiting words in a natural, conversational manner. A teacher at Garden City Elementary School, in Indiana, created a Word Wall (shown above) that included all the targeted words introduced during read alouds.

Inforgraphic: Anchored Word Learning


Our new book, Blended Vocabulary, expands upon this strategy and many others, including how to incorporate digital tools. We’ve devoted an entire chapter to them as an integral part of an effective vocabulary framework.


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Kimberly is an educational consultant who works with district leaders to improve instructional effectiveness and student learning. No Tears for Tiers, a book about Common Core Vocabulary that she is writing, will be published by Solution Tree in 2014. In her other life, you'll find her in her gardens, biking, reading, or hanging out with her two teenagers (when they let her, that is).