Alphaboxes Graphic Organizer {12 Days: Tool 7}

Tool 7Alphaboxes: A Vocabulary and Comprehension Strategy

{12 Days: 12 Tools} has been so much fun to plan, create, and share my favorite tools! Several tools have been accessed and downloaded hundreds of times. So far, the top 2 downloaded tools are the “Common Core Cheat Sheet” and the “Twitter Cheat Sheet for Educators.” “Concept Circles,” a graphic organizer for building vocabulary, is trailing close behind.

The “Twitter Cheat Sheet” was featured on Terry Heick’s yesterday, has appeared in numerous magazines, and has many retweets. Thanks to all of you who passed on the Twitter Cheat Sheet! I’m pleased to know that these tools are helping educators just like you. Knowing that tools such as the “Concept Circle” will make a difference in teaching and student learning is great.


“Alphaboxes,” as created by Linda Hoyt, is a strategy for activating prior knowledge, building vocabulary and comprehension before, during, and after reading. The conversation that is elicited when using the “Alphaboxes” strategy helps students make connections to the new information they will be learning and aids comprehension.

With the Common Core Standards emphasis on increasing the amount of reading specifically in nonfiction and informational text, Alphaboxes is a perfect strategy and tool to aid students with the amount of vocabulary found in informational text.

While it’s a simple and straightforward graphic organizer, Alphaboxes can be used in a variety of ways to build vocabulary and comprehension. I’ve summarized them below.

Alphaboxes: What works in the classroom

Pre-reading Activity: Announce the topic/concept and elicit discussion from students. Record key terms, details in the specific Alphaboxes squares as students mention them. Talk about the meaning of the terms before students read the text or watch a Alphaboxesvideo, for example. Feel free to add key terms to the chart as well. Then direct students to the text, video, recording and with the direction to record any other key terms that they think should be included on the chart.

  • Study Tool: For students in grade 4-12, the Alphabox graphic organizer is a tool that students can add to as they read and learn content information. It can also serve as a study aid for quizzes and texts.
  • Pairs/Cooperative Learning Groups: The Alphabox tool used for before- and after-reading activities is a perfect time for students to work with partners or in cooperative learning groups to share and refine their learning.
  • After-Reading Strategy: The “Alphaboxes” graphic organizer can be used as a tool to promote reflection, summarize key terms, and monitor comprehension.
  • Students work individually to add key terms or details related to the topic in the appropriate box on the alphabox form.
  • Then students can come together in pairs, small groups, or as a class to discuss specific terms added to the graphic organizer and any words they now think are irrelevant and should be removed. It is important that, when sharing words, student justify why the word is important.
  • After sharing their words, group members create a compilation of the most interesting words generated during their sharing. The group members must be able to justify the inclusion of any word on their list in relation to its importance or significance to the text.
  • Topical Word Wall: As the class comes together to discuss which terms should be included on the class Alphabox organizer, the Alphabox chart becomes a portable, content/topical word wall. After all, word walls are not just for primary students!


{12 Days: 12 Tools} Tool 7 is the Alphabox graphic organizer (see image).

Download today’s tool by clicking the tag below.

Check back tomorrow for {12 Days: 12 Tools} Tool 8.

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{12 Days: 12 Tools} Do you have the first 6 Tools?

Tool 1: Top Tips for Word Walls

Tool 2: Vocabulary Tool – Concept Circles

Tool 3: Common Core Cheat Sheet

Tool 4: Twitter Cheat Sheet for Educators

Tool 5: Marzano’s 6-Step Vocabulary Process

Tool 6: Classroom Library Checklist

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Kimberly has been a teacher, administrator, and literacy consultant who worked in districts across the country to improve student literacy achievement. She currently serves as an Educational Specialist with Solution Tree and project manager for large-scale PLC implementations. Her new book, Blended Vocabulary: Harnessing the Power of Digital Tools and Effective Instruction, was recently released in February, 2017.