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Above Image: A dictionary entry for the word seed © flySnow,

What is it?

A Vocabulary Preview learning strategy is used to help students develop and increase their working vocabulary about a topic or inquiry by providing students the opportunity to identify and familiarize themselves with vocabulary before and during an inquiry or other learning experience.

Why use it?

  • To access and activate prior knowledge of vocabulary found in a text, video or inquiry learning experience.
  • To preview vocabulary that the students will be engaging in when reading/viewing a text or video or engaging in an inquiry.
  • To track new vocabulary students encounter when reading reading/viewing a text or video or engaging in an inquiry.

How do I use it?

  • Before using this strategy, introduce its purpose to the students and provide a structured example to teach and model expected behaviours.
  • Create a vocabulary list for a given article, video, upcoming inquiry or learning experience using the Vocabulary Preview Template.
  • Provide each student with a copy of the Vocabulary Preview Template at the beginning of the class.
  • Students fill in the Vocabulary Preview template before they read/view a text or video or engage in an inquiry by categorizing each word from the list and decide whether:
    • the word is totally new;
    • they have heard of the word, yet are not sure of its meaning;
    • they know the meaning of the word; or
    • they know the meaning of the word and can use it in a sentence.
  • Students’ completed Vocabulary Previews should be used to assess the classes’ prior knowledge and comprehension of vocabulary related to the topic or inquiry in question.

Tips for Success

  • When creating a Vocabulary Preview list, include words that are both familiar and unfamiliar to the students so that they can begin to understand the relationship between the words.
  • Provide students vocabulary that they may come across in a new learning experience and/or need to conduct an inquiry they may not be familiar with or not know the correct meaning of.
  • Provide students with additional sources of information in which to determine the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary, such as websites, books, etc.


  • Once completed, the Vocabulary Preview can be used in different ways:
    • Students can work in pairs and discuss their responses. Students can then work together to define the unfamiliar words
    • Unfamiliar words and concepts can be explicitly taught to ensure that students are able to fully access the information presented
    • Students can research the meaning of the unfamiliar words in the list
    • Given a list of definitions, students match the definitions to the vocabulary words on the list.

Tools and Templates

Vocabulary Preview - Seed Investigation pdf doc

Vocabulary Preview - Paxi-The Red Planet pdf doc

Vocabulary Preview - Template - Portrait pdf doc

Vocabulary Preview - Template - Landscape  pdf doc