Marzano's 6 Step Vocabulary Process

Guest blog post by Lisa Monthie, Learning Ambassador

Learning new words is hard! There, I said it. I am an avid reader and subscribe to hundreds of blogs. Yet, in this world of constant change, I am inundated with a steady onslaught of new words to learn. Recently, some new words have included: unicorn frappuccino, fidget spinners, rompers, salty (not as an adjective for food), hundo p, and many, many more consisting of misspelled words and combined letters/numbers/wing dings, etc.


When confronted by new terms, I visualize Marzano’s 6 step process. In my head, I quickly assess my knowledge of the term, try to put it in my own words, think of a picture, and try to use it in discussion. I find myself in a constant Marzano cycle as students introduce new words to the classroom almost daily. I don’t want to be foolish so sometimes I pretend I’m hip to the new lingo (although when I use phrases like “hip to the lingo” or “psyche”, students quickly know I’m an imposter, a word fraud).


However, when it comes to teaching academic vocabulary, this lady ain’t no fraud (ok, isn’t an imposter).  Marzano’s 6 step vocabulary process is













Seriously, Marzano’s 6 step process is research and evidence based and results in longer retention of vocabulary and application in new contexts. I have seen many new, flash in the pan systems and ways of teaching and learning vocabulary. However, none have the guaranteed and viable results as Marzano’s system. Here are some ways technology can help with Marzano’s process.


Pre-Assess - Do not spend time teaching terms students already have mastered.

Instead, consider creating a question in Google Classroom, having students select their knowledge level of the term ( as a multiple choice question).. Another option is to try a survey tool, such as Poll Everywhere for sharing knowledge of the term; students vote on their knowledge level.. Have students add an emoji to a Google Doc or Padlet for how they feel about that term. Assess the terms using Plickers to gauge understanding. A low-tech/no tech option is to have students turn and discuss the term. The amount of discussion and the content of the discussion will show mastery.


Explain - A clear explanation is vital to students understanding the concept. Find more examples of terms using sites such as Pics4Learning, PhotosforClass, and MorgueFile (it sounds scary, but it isn’t). Try using ThinkMap VIsual Thesaurus for an interactive display of the term and related words and concepts. Consider trolling YouTube for video examples of terms, For example, if I were teaching “personification”, I would definitely use commercials such as The Kohler Robots commercial, the K9 Advantix Commercial,  or Be Amazing Kenmore washer commercial. For a low-tech/no-tech option I would read “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer or “Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes” by Gary Soto. The more times students are exposed to a term, the easier it is for that term to be committed to long term memory.


Restate - The ability to use the term in your own words shows basic understanding of the term. One tool for restating is a word cloud generator. Have students create word clouds using the definition in their own words. Challenge students with a “Guess the Wordle” style game; create a word cloud without including the term, and have students see if they can guess the term correctly. Another tool for restating terms is Formative where students can write out the definition using a stylus. Quizlet can also be used as a tool for restating. Students can create flashcards and play matching, gravity, and Quizlet live against others. A low-tech/no tech option would be to play “I have...Who has” with cards. One card has the term and the other has the term restated in other words.


Show - The ability to create a nonlinguistic representation of the term is often overlooked or considered “fluffy stuff”. Brain research has shown that adding imagery to a term increases retention of the term, resulting in that term being filed away in long term memory. Online tools for creating imagery include Google draw, Glogster EDU, Powtoon, Pixton Comic Creator, and Adobe Spark. A fun and engaging way of illustrating terms is through using memes (shown above). Have students post memes using the vocabulary term.  Students can also use Canva, Pablo, or Notegraphy to make beautiful images including the term.


Engage - A fun way to engage students with terms is to use a virtual dice roll. Roll the dice on the screen and if it lands on 1, students must restate the term. If it lands on 2, they must say an antonym, 3 a synonym, etc. You can also use a tool like Random Name Picker and have students define the term that the wheel selects. QR codes can also be an engaging way of learning terms. Use a QR matching template or a QR cube as an activity for a center/station. Students can match the term with the definition and scan to verify, or scan a side of the cube and use that term in a sentence. A low-tech/no-tech option is a foldable. Have students interact with the term by creating a foldable including various prefixes and suffixes.


Discuss - Discussion truly anchors the learning of new terms. Have students record themselves using the terms in normal discussion using ChatterPix, Dragon Dictation, and many others found here. Give students question prompts over the terms to discuss. An example using the term “cantankerous” would be “Would you want a friend who is cantankerous? Why or why not?”  Have older students share thoughts using filters on Snapchat, MarcoPolo, or Facebook. Consider using a backchannel tool in class to moderate and facilitate discussion of terms. Google classroom comments, an educational blog or Seesaw could serve as both places to practice with the terms and an ongoing repository for new terms.   


Play - Have students play games that review their knowledge of the terms. Kahoot, Quizizz, Flipquiz, and Jeopardy Labs are fun and engaging ways of interacting with terms. Flippity has many templates that use Google sheets to create interactive games. Play Hangman, Bingo or create a Mad Lib using the terms. A low-tech/no tech version would be to play variations on 100,000 Pyramid or Catch Phrase.



Learning new vocabulary is key to understanding any piece of text. Vocabulary should be explicitly taught and revisited often. Using Marzano’s 6 Step Vocabulary Process will lay a foundation for student success in any content area/grade level. How have you used Marzano’s 6 Step Vocabulary Process? Are there other tools that you have used with this process?



Join Lisa for #HoonuitLIVE on June 13th as she shares ways to Rev up your Review. Register to join these FREE live professional development sessions by Learning Ambassadors.


Lisa Monthie is a Technology Professional Development Specialist in Waco ISD. Lisa has 10 years of experience in education and holds a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Educational Technology. She enjoys finding innovative means of integrating technology in the classroom.


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