Series: Engaging Newcomers in Language & Content

Seven Step Vocabulary
Lesson Objective: Use a seven step method for vocabulary instruction
Grades 6-12 / All Subjects / ELL

Thought starters

  1. How does each step help build students' understanding of the new word?
  2. Why is this strategy especially effective for ELLs?
  3. How could you use this strategy in your own classroom?

This is a great strategy for teaching vocabulary for any subject. The seven steps are a great way for the students to learn their vocabulary words and understand the meaning of the word and how it is used. This would be a great strategy for any subject. This is a great video and can be a valuable resource In my future.

Recommended (0)


Good classroom discussion about vocabulary, however, it is not the 7-Steps of RETELL or it’s foundation model ExC-ELL.  Good during reading technique or after reading word study, but for preteaching, it requires too much background knowledge an is not a Tier 2 vocabulary phrase.  Below you’ll see the actual 7-Steps and how your nice activity aligns or deviates.

Joe’s 7-Steps:  Notice that Joe put everything on the ppt or smartboard.  Good job!

Step 1: say it 3 times. (correct)  HOWEVER, rising sea levels is a Tier 3 content specific phrase.

Step 2: Translate (incorrect) translation is NOT part of the process (cognates yes, translation no). Translation soon becomes a becomes crutch plus if the teacher isn’t a native speaker of every language in the classroom it causes a problem and leaves others out.  English is the unifying language for instruction.

Step 3: Academic or dictionary definition (great)

Step 4: Student friendly definition (great)

Step 5: Highlighting how it is special, etc.  false cognates, cognates, grammar, polysemy.(correct)

Step 6: visual (incorrect) A visual image is not part of the 7-Steps. However, if it is VERY specific and conveys exactly the meaning, it can be added at the definition level

Step 7: Turn and Talk: (almost)  This is actually Step 6 and requires a sentence frame (which Joe provided).

Here are the correct base parameters for the 7-Steps for Preteaching Vocabulary

Step 1: Teacher says the word (or phrase) and asks students to repeat the word 3 times.

Step 2: Teacher states the word in context from text. (Literally use the word exactly as it appears in the text students are about to read. Type the complete sentence into the script that you project on the screen.)

Step 3: Teacher provides the dictionary definition.

Step: 4 Teacher provides student-friendly definition.

Step 5: Teacher highlights grammar, spelling, polysemy, etc.

Step 6: Students engage in Teacher provided sentence starter or frame using the target vocabulary for 60 seconds. 

Step 7: Teacher informs students how/when to use the word in Peer Summaries, Exit Passes, or other writing assignments.


Recommended (0)

I like the Seven Steps Strategy, especially step 1 (repeat the word after teacher says it) and step 6 (providing a visual image). Step 2 (translating the word into the students' native language) is challenging and not always doable because 1) students' native language might not be the same for everybody and 2) there are multiple meanings to words, so how do you know the students are selecting and translating in their native language the meaning that we want to target ?

Recommended (0)
Recommended (0)
The seven step process is an excellent method to learn vocabulary words. It goes above and beyond any traditional method for learning vocabulary words. Great for ELL learners
Recommended (1)


  • Seven Step Vocabulary Transcript
    Joe Burkett: One thing that I do to teach important vocabulary for the day's lesson is

    Seven Step Vocabulary Transcript
    Joe Burkett: One thing that I do to teach important vocabulary for the day's lesson is use a seven step vocabulary method.
    All right, so we're gonna start by looking at vocabulary words.
    So the seven step strategy is a sheltered English strategy for teaching vocabulary. Step one would be having the students repeat the word three times.
    So can we have you repeat after me. Rising.
    Students: Rising.
    Joe Burkett: Sea levels.
    Students: Sea levels.
    Joe Burkett: Step two would be providing translation in native language.
    Could I have someone read the translation for me? Mateo.
    Mateo: [foreign 00:00:40]
    Joe Burkett: All right. So you've a space to write that.
    And then step three we provide an academic definition.
    And could someone please read the definition for me? Gadiel?
    Gadiel: Increase the water level of the ocean.
    Joe Burkett: Ocean, nice job.
    Step four would be providing a definition that's more student friendly.
    An increase in the water level of the ocean.
    Step five would be highlighting an aspect of the word that might be confusing, for example, false cognates. Step six would be providing a visual image for them to see.
    Okay what I want you to do is turn and talk to your partner about rising sea levels. So here, rising sea levels are dangerous because ... Ready? Turn and talk.
    Step seven is an activity which they can use the word in context, for instance, a turn and talk about using the vocabulary word where they're describing an image.
    Who would like to share? What did you talk about? Yes?
    Speaker 5: Sea level increasing and can kill many species of animal and also human.
    Joe Burkett: So you're saying extreme weather is connected to both of the other effects.
    A lot of times through the vocabulary you can really have the students engage in some of the content that you want them to focus on. So imagine the seven step process as being a real support for the content that you're trying to teach.
    Thank you everybody, you guys were great.

Related Blogs

img alt text
English Language Learners

English Language Learners

School Details

ENLACE Academy

Lawrence, Massachusetts


Joe Burkett


Teaching Practice

All Grades/ All Subjects/ Culture

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Culture

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement