Building Vocabulary in the Primary Years

Learn about new interventions that are helping underserved children in the Mississippi Delta make strides in vocabulary development.

  • Cathy Garner, Winter Unit

    This video from SERVE illustrates how kindergarten teacher Cathy Garner using three methods to boost her students’ vocabulary. First, she shows students picture cards to help them put a name to each image. Then Garner reads a story aloud that uses the vocabulary from the picture cards. Finally, she takes time throughout the day to engage in rich conversation with her students, recasting their simple vocabulary to use the newly acquired target vocabulary words.

    Grades: K, 13+
  • Emma Orsby-Jackson, Winter Unit

    Kindergarten teacher Emma Orsby-Jackson uses picture cards to introduce her students to new vocabulary words, then reads a story that uses the new words. She also takes time several times a day to talk with students, recasting their simple vocabulary during the conversation to use newly acquired target vocabulary words. These conversations give students valuable experience using new vocabulary and talking with an adult.

    Grades: K, 13+
  • Using Vocabulary Cards and Interactive Storybook Reading

    In the first slideshow, three kindergarten teachers explain how they use picture cards to introduce new target vocabulary words that students will encounter in a story that the teacher will read to them. The images on the cards help students get a mental image of what the new word describes, while the teacher discusses the word in context to give it meaning. In the second slideshow, two kindergarten teachers explain how they make time during the day to engage their students in rich conversation, re-casting simple vocabulary with new target vocabulary words when possible. The conversations are unscripted, and allow students to talk about their lives using new vocabulary.

    Grades: K
  • Introduction to Vocabulary Intervention

    Underserved children have around 3,000 fewer vocabulary words than their peers. They also have less than half the experience talking with adults as other children. In this video from SERVE, watch how a kindergarten vocabulary intervention program helps students boost their vocabulary through a combination of vocabulary study, storybook reading, and rich conversation with their teacher.

    Grades: K, 13+
  • Overview of Vocabulary Intervention

    This video from SERVE describes the goals of a kindergarten vocabulary intervention program. The program boosts the vocabulary of underserved kindergartners, many of who know 3,000 fewer words than their peers. It also gives these children a chance to succeed in school—during kindergarten and beyond. Find out more at or

    Grades: K, 13+