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Teaching the meaning of words should include more than simply telling them a definition. If we want students to be able to use the words independently and flexibly, their initial interaction with the word should be well-rounded and multi-faceted.

The ABCs of direct vocabulary instruction use the first seven letters of the alphabet to list multiple options for presenting new words. Activating prior knowledge helps students fit the new word into existing semantic domains. Bases and affixes promote word study and open up the meaning of related words. Context clues, if available, provide rich indicators for the meaning of unknown terms. Descriptive definitions, on the other hand, use informal language rather than technical jargon to define words. Examples and non-examples compare the new word with shared knowledge. Friendly words, or synonyms, help give new labels to already understood concepts. Grammar usage, such as the word origin and part of speech, also present additional information about vocabulary words.

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