vocabularyHow did you learn vocabulary when you were in school? You may remember long lists of complicated words and hours spent memorizing obscure definitions. As adults, you may now understand language as living, growing, and ongoing rather than having definite meanings and boundaries. We want students to have as many experiences as possible to appreciate and engage in rich language.

Understanding vocabulary is well-documented as important to school success and reading comprehension. Students’ receptive vocabularies, or what they can understand when listening, can be at least two grade levels higher than their expressive vocabularies, or what they use when speaking. 

Using Listenwise provides the opportunity to stretch student language. Here’s how it works:


In order to understand some lessons, there are precise, subject-specific words students need to know. Providing direct instruction of words in these subject areas is necessary for understanding the content. However, listening to read-alouds, discussion, and independent reading have all been shown to increase vocabulary growth.

Reading, listening to, and engaging in a high volume of language is very important to vocabulary development. So, the best practices include a variety of methods to teach vocabulary.


Our stories have interactive transcripts that progress in sync with the audio and highlight the words as they are read. Language subtitling is a powerful way to support literacy since it contributes to word recognition and word comprehension skills. This allows students to follow along and hear vocabulary words used in meaningful ways.

Context Clues

Learning new words in context can lead to deeper, more enduring understanding. It’s been shown that students can learn the meaning of unknown words through incidental exposure when listening.

To encourage students to take advantage of context clues, ask: Was there a restatement or a synonym in the sentence that help you find the meaning? How do certain phrases, like “for example” or “unlike,” help us understand unfamiliar vocabulary?  

Listenwise lessons provide teachers with more than just words in context. Some lessons for example, come with vocabulary listening activities and others provide learners with information about idioms, revealing how language can be used in both literal and figurative ways.

Repeated Exposure

Vocabulary instruction should provide students with opportunities to encounter words repeatedly and in a variety of contexts. Listening multiple times and repeated reading demands additional instructional time, but research shows the increase in word learning makes a difference for students.

Academic Vocabulary

With Listenwise, vocabulary instruction does not only happen in ELA lessons. Instead, lessons across subject areas provide opportunities to discover new words. Our lessons identify and define tier 2 vocabulary words, such as those on The Academic Word List. These are high frequency words that students will see throughout their school career, such as predict, justify, evaluate, compare, and are critical for educational success.

When students focus on vocabulary from our audio stories, they learn how words may have different connotations depending on the sentence or situation. For example, the word reservation might mean “to book a room”, or “land set aside,” or “doubt” depending on the subject area in which it’s used.
Listenwise vocabulary activities encourage deep, meaningful engagement with new words. Take advantage of our lessons as you help your students build valuable and lasting literacy skills.