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The Class Word Finder

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

by Jill Macchiaverna, graduate student

If you feel guilty every time you offer vocabulary instruction to your best readers because you know they already know the words you are teaching, you might consider having a rotating class job of “Word Finder.”

The Word Finder’s responsibilities are to read materials before they are assigned to the whole class. The Word Finder is charged with determining which words from the passage should be vocabulary. The Word Finder bases their list on whether the words are integral to understanding the text and whether they think their classmates have heard the words before or already know the meanings of the words.

While this may be a more engaging way to handle vocabulary for your highest readers, research has shown readers of any level can be quite good at figuring out which words are essential for understanding a passage (Harmon, et al., 2008). That’s why I suggest letting this be a rotating job, to give readers at all levels a chance to be experts. When modification is appropriate, some ways to differentiate could include letting teams tackle the job or being selective with which passages are assigned to students based on their levels. English Language Learners in particular would benefit from being paired with a buddy reader for this role.


Harmon, J.M., et al. (2008). Pick a word -- not just any word: using vocabulary self-selection with expository texts. Middle School Journal, 40(1), 43-52. Stable URL:

Read the full action research paper here:

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