Building Tier 2 Vocabulary in Speech Therapy


Do you struggle to find what vocabulary words you should work on with your older speech students since there are so many words that they struggle with?  

Today I am going to be sharing with you a free tool called vocab grabber that's going to help you determine what vocabulary words your students might struggle with and how you can use it with your older speech students.

When it comes to working on vocabulary for your older speech students, I find there's three levels of vocabulary:

Tier one are those basic common vocabulary words that are like (dog, house, cat, shirt, shoes, fall). They are words that we expect them to develop and pick up indirectly and they don't need that direct instruction on.

You also have tier three words that are those curriculum vocabulary words like (mitochondria or executive branch of government). These are words that they're learning in the classroom but once they are done with that unit, they're never hearing those words again.

Then there is those tier two words. Tier two words are words seen across curriculum so it could be words like (increase, predict, infer, compare, or explain). We might see those in an ala text, we might see them in a social studies text, we might see them in science, even in math. These words can be found in academic conversations across any subject area.


When it comes to working on vocabulary, I like to work on these tier 2 words because it gives us some more bang for our buck! We want to teach our students what to do when they come across these words and how to tackle it. So if you're determining which type of words should you work on, instead of just working on a random word lists that you can google, the best use of your time is to instead teach them strategies on how to figure out those words when any of them come their way.


My Favorite tool – Vocab Grabber

Let's say you are showing your students an article from This is an article that was posted like two days ago and it is very relevant and engaging. You are going to copy the text and then you're going to paste it in vocab grabber. Because who has time to sit and read a text and say hey what word is a tier 2 word ?? We don't have time for that so we need any tool possible, especially if it's free!

You can use vocab grabber with any sort of text and it makes it so much easier to just copy and paste it and hit the grab vocabulary button. Now all the different vocabulary words in the text have popped up. However that doesn't mean all these words are tier two vocabulary words so instead I’m going to unclick the “show all words” and then I’m going to click vocabulary.

Then you can see that I got the 10 tier 2 vocabulary words that are in this passage. The vocab grabber also makes a visual thesaurus because all those words are the same like size that means they are shown in the article the same amount of time.

If you click any of these words tier 2 words from the passage like “recreate” it will have the definition, the parts of speech, and the sample from the text.  This can help me easily find where in the text it is located so I can easily also make a context clues activity.

I can then help preview these vocabulary words with my students before we even read the article. It's a good pre-reading strategy so you can get your students familiar with these vocabulary words before reading. It also can help prepare us to know what our students are going to and what they need to know.


Pre Reading Strategy

One thing I like to do with my students is to tell them that I’m going to share some words with them and have them tell me if they are:

A friend to it = familiar with it, you can hang out with that word and use it over and over again

An acquaintance with it = like you have heard it before but you might not be able to use it on your own

Or stranger danger = you've never heard that word before

You can go through all these different tier 2 words and you can have your students close their eyes so this way they're not seeing everyone else's responses and feeling like obligated to say the same things as their peers. Then based on the results you can then either introduce these vocabularies before you read the article or teach students as they're reading to utilize the context clues.

I like use questions like, what's the whole story about, how is it used, what part of speech is being used, can we think of a synonym that could be replacing that word?


I love pairing these simple strategies along with the vocab grabber because it helps me prepare myself and take the guesswork out of it. I hope you found this tool helpful and can use it with your students this week! If you want to learn more from me about how to plan for your older speech students check out the video below or SLP Elevate – my membership for older speech students where you can find more low-prep ideas and monthly themed materials that are all done for you!

SLP Elevate!