The Daily Content-Area Vocabulary Routine

Do you get questioning looks from your English Language Learners when you use content area vocabulary?

You are not alone! I experienced this very scenario frequently with my first grade English Language Learners. They often did not have the same background as my English speaking students and had difficulty understanding a large portion of our content area vocabulary. To read more of my story, review our blog post below:

The Literacy Tool Every Primary Teacher Needs!

I have found daily vocabulary to be an important part of developing my students’ overall literacy, to include reading, writing, and comprehension. Our Daily Concept Builders calendars provided me with related content area vocabulary words that provided much-needed context for my English Language Learners.

This is a sample of the September calendar

My Daily Content Area Vocabulary Routine

First of all, I go over the word of the day with my students during morning meeting, and what the word means. To see my full morning routine introducing these words, view the video HERE. I then dismiss them to write about the word in their vocabulary journals during literacy centers.

These journals are an easy literacy center activity, and bonus, no prep work!

Content Area Vocabulary Literacy Centers

They write the word at the top of the page and how many syllables the word has. Then they write about the word, and finally, draw a picture. I also encourage them to try to include other words from our calendar in addition to the word of the day. They highlight their calendar words.

First grade journal writingThis child did an excellent job of using 4 of the calendar words in her journal! She wrote the word of the day, “quality”, and wrote the number 3 for the number of syllables in the word. Then she used the words “students”, “listen,” and “teacher” from our September calendar.

By the way, the Quentin she is referring to is our classroom mascot. Read more about mascots and building classroom culture below:

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Classroom Culture

My students learned a lot of great vocabulary and increased their writing from one sentence to five sentences! These journals were incredibly valuable in building their skills from the beginning of the year to the end.

They used the words at the end of the week to write a story. The words from the week are thematic, so it keeps my students on topic when they write their stories.

This is an example of my students using the February Calendar words in their journals.

February Student Writing

I love how my students just go and get the words they want to use for their stories at the end of the week. As you can see, this is an amazing opportunity for content area vocabulary, increasing English Language Learners’ writing skills, and overall literacy development.

My students are consistently writing about the units or themes that we are studying because the calendar words are usually content area vocabulary words. 

student writing using vocabulary

I loved how this student wrote the words from the April Calendar at the top of the page, especially because she was one of my English Language learners.

Teaching Words-from an Edutopia article

“If you haven’t heard of him, I’d like to introduce Robert Marzano. This guy is pretty amazing, having spent countless hours observing students and teachers. An education researcher and teacher, he stresses that in all content areas, direct vocabulary instruction is essential and suggests six steps:

Step one: The teacher explains a new word, going beyond reciting its definition (tap into prior knowledge of students, use imagery).

Step two: Students restate or explain the new word in their own words (verbally and/or in writing).

Step three: Ask students to create a non-linguistic representation of the word (a picture, or symbolic representation).

Step four: Students engage in activities to deepen their knowledge of the new word (compare words, classify terms, write their own analogies and metaphors).

Step five: Students discuss the new word (pair-share, elbow partners).

Step six: Students periodically play games to review new vocabulary (Pyramid, Jeopardy, Telephone).

Marzano’s six steps do something revolutionary to vocabulary learning: They make it fun. Students think about, talk about, apply, and play with new words. And Webster doesn’t get a word in edgewise.”

I also take the ideas from their journals and have my students pick a topic we studied for the month and write about it for a class book. They take turns illustrating the books.  Stories students wrote using content-area vocabulary

This is one of the pages in the book. 

First Grade Easter Writing using content-area vocabulary

Students need to see and use these vocabulary words numerous times to learn about them, therefore I give them different opportunities to write about the words. I loved seeing the progress that my students made writing in their vocabulary journals. These words gave them confidence in their writing.

Check out our calendars if you want to see the words that we already have available. The calendars are editable, so you can change them to go with your units. Read more about this below:

The Literacy Tool Every Primary Teacher Needs!

Regardless of whether you purchase our vocabulary calendars or not, I hope that you will try this journal idea. As a result, you will see your students’ vocabulary and writing improve as you use them daily.

The best part for me was watching how my students grew in their confidence in writing as these journals helped them stay on topic.


I want you to experience the same success that I have witnessed with my students, so I hope that you will try the September calendar. I know you will see the rich vocabulary your students will learn. Get the entire Year for a discount!

 Vocabulary Calendar Bundle 

Please share this post, so that we can help other teachers with content vocabulary!

Your comments help us and other teachers bring quality learning to the classroom, especially for our English Language Learners. Comment below on what you do to increase your students’ vocabulary and writing.


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17 thoughts on “The Daily Content-Area Vocabulary Routine”

  1. Kathy

    I love these ideas of using content vocabulary when writing, Will definitely try these! Thank you!

    1. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks Kathy! It has really helped our students stay on topic when they write.

  2. Such great ideas for learning vocabulary. Teaching vocabulary can be so boring. Thank you for the ideas! 🙂

    1. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks Yara! We try to create engaging resources.

  3. Janet Fishyrobb

    So much great information here! I loved seeing the video of your routine. That is so helpful! Thank you for sharing! I will definitely be checking out your calendars.

    1. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks Janet! We hope that you will enjoy the calendars. Let us know what you think.

  4. Wendy

    I really enjoyed reading this post! It has given me lots of ideas for the classroom. It’s great to see how engaged and on topic your students are. I love the video and the writing samples. I can see clearly how your Daily Concept Builders are building confidence with content area vocabulary. Thank you for the free month too!

    1. SOL Train Learning

      You’re welcome Wendy! Thanks for your comments! We have seen great progress in their writing as well as vocabulary development.

  5. Content vocabulary goes so well with writing center activities! This article has some great ideas for helping kids be aware of monthly holidays. Nice!

    1. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks Maggie! We appreciate your comments.

  6. Rebecca G Sullivan

    I love all the ideas you provided to use with ELL students! Thanks for sharing!

    1. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks Rebecca! The real photos really have helped our ELL students to understand the content-area vocabulary.

  7. This is such a great way to scaffold instruction. Great post! I love how easy you’ve made it to see how this works in your classroom!

    1. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks so much Carrie!Let us know if you have any questions.

  8. This is wonderful information to help the kids learn vocabulary. Thank you.

    1. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks Kathy! Our students have learned a lot of vocabulary with these vocabulary resources.

    2. SOL Train Learning

      Thanks Kathy! Vocabulary is one of our passions since we teach in Title 1 schools.

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