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Before or after reading, students, individually or in a group, choose words to add to a sheet divided into 26 boxes, one for

each letter of the alphabet. This reading strategy helps students identify content vocabulary in nonfiction texts for any subject. For younger students, beginning sounds of words will be reinforced. Older students will use the graphic organizer to classify new vocabulary.

This strategy was chosen to help students develop vocabulary skills, an area in which many students in my school struggle. Ellery (2009) states vocabulary is the glue that holds stories, ideas and content together and that facilitates making comprehension accessible for children (p. 169). Alphaboxes will encourage students to identify content vocabulary and discuss how these words relate to the text. Students will categorize and organize vocabulary in a familiar format and then make connections to prior knowledge. Daniels and Zemelman (2004) discuss the importance of teaching vocabulary at all levels to help students comprehend what they are reading.

Content area learning greatly depends on students understanding the vocabulary. These are language arts outcomes which will support and encourage any subject. The integration of skills and subject areas help students to apply and reinforce their knowledge.

Use conversation to explore personal understanding Clarify new understanding of connections Use prior knowledge to make connection to text and self Categorize related information and ideas using a variety of strategies

content area text Alphabox graphic organizer
a b c d e f



While previewing texts, ask students to brainstorm words that describe the subject or pictures. As well, add words that students already know about the subject. Discuss how the chosen words could relate to the text. Read the text: independently, with the group, or in partners. When finished reading, ask students to add more words to their original brainstorm.





With an elbow partner or as a guided reading group, choose which words they would like to add to the Alphabox graphic organizer. Words are sorted according their beginning sound. This is a great opportunity to model sounding out words or using the text to help with unfamiliar words as a spelling strategy. Discuss why the words relate to the text. Using a highlighter or simply with their finger, go back to the text and find the words selected for their Alphaboxes.

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Observe students - are they able to use the new vocabulary in group discussion or their writing? Can students read the words?

For students having difficulties remembering vocabulary, they can illustrate or find pictures of the words. While reading the text, build in pauses so students can identify which picture matches the vocabulary. Students could create ABC books modeled after M is for Maple by Mike Ulmer. Have students find words for every letter of the alphabet for the subject. Challenge students to use vocabulary from their Alphaboxes during content area writing or when journaling.

Daniels , H., & Zemelan, S. (2004). Subjects matter: Every teachers guide to content-area reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Ellery, V. (2009). Creating strategic readers: Techniques for developing competency in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency vocabulary and comprehension. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Morrison, V., & Wlodarczyk, L. (2009, October). Revisiting Read-Aloud: Instructional Strategies That Encourage Students' Engagement With Texts. The Reading Teacher, 63(2), 110-118. Ulmer, M. (2001). M is for maple: A canadian alphabet. Vancouver, BC: Sleeping Bear Press