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Do you need an authentic way to teach tier 2 words?

Your student reads a book, filled with tier 2 words, accurately and with great fluency. But when you ask them to tell you what happened in the story they can’t.

How is that possible? It could be that they could read those tier 2 words perfectly, but didn’t know the meanings of many of them.

Vocabulary instruction is one of the most important ways to help kids improve their reading comprehension. Knowing how to figure out unknown words is essential in understanding what you’re reading.

Teaching tier 2 words are high-frequency words that are found in a wide variety of texts and used in written and oral language by mature language users.

Tier 2 words tend to present challenges to kids because the meanings are not obvious. Students have to use strategies such as context clues to help them define the words. 

Using picture books is a great way to authentically teach how to figure out the meanings of tier 2 words. You can read more about that in this blog post.

I’ve compiled a list of picture books for each month of the school year, that contains at least six tier 2 words.


August: Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Ada Twist, Scientist is a story written in rhyme that includes rich vocabulary. The main character is a little girl who is very curious and asks tons of questions. Like a true scientist, she works her way through these questions which causes some messy chaos.


September: A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts

In a Bike Like Sergio’s, the little boy wants a bike just like Sergio. One day he finds a $100 bill and has a moral dilemma about what to do. The story has a great message about doing what is right even when you don’t end up getting what you want. 


October: I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton

I’m Trying to Love Spiders contains some great tier 2 words but also tier 3 words. Tier 3 words are content words often found in nonfiction texts. The reader learns facts about spiders while being entertained with a story about being scared of them. 


November: Turk and Runt-A Thanksgiving Comedy by Lisa Wheeler

Turk and Runt is a hilarious story about a turkey whose family never listens to him. In order for his family to listen to him about the realities of being a turkey at Thanksgiving, Runt does some things to get his family’s attention that will have your students laughing. 


December: Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant

I chose two books for December because it was hard to choose between them. 

First up is Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. This heartwarming story is perfect for the season of giving and showing kindness.

Those Shoes is about a little boy who desperately wants a pair of expensive shoes because everyone is wearing them at school. He learns an important message about appreciating what he does have as well as the importance of helping someone in need. 


The book Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story is my second pick. It’s a story about a little boy that wishes for a doctor kit every year for Christmas. He never receives it but does receive what he needs. When he grows up, he returns to his hometown and pays it forward. 


January: Brave Irene by William Steig

The story Brave Irene has a snowy setting which I thought would be perfect for January. It’s a story about determination and how sometimes you have to fight a battle to get to where you want to be. 


February: Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly

To celebrate Black History Month, I chose the book Hidden Figures. It’s a nonfiction book about the amazing ladies who participated in some of NASA’s biggest accomplishments. Though the ladies had limitations because of the color of their skin, they worked hard and their persistence helped change the world. 


March: Wilma Unlimited- How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

Wilma Unlimited is a great book for celebrating Women’s History Month. It’s a narrative nonfiction about Wilma Rudolph who’s leg became paralyzed at a young age. It was disheartening when she was told she’d never walk again. However, Rudolph refused to believe that and went on to win gold medals in the Olympics. 


April: Rescue and Jessica- A Life Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky

Rescue and Jessica is the author’s true story about losing her leg in the Boston 2013 Boston Bombing. The story is written from the viewpoint of both Rescue and Jessica. Rescue is Jessica’s service dog who’s worried because his life doesn’t turn out to be what he expects.

At the same time, Jessica is going through a difficult time and worrying about her future and the obstacles she will have to face. When they get paired they find a friend in each other, walking through challenges together.


May: Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang

Swimming with Sharks is a nonfiction text about Eugenie Clark’s shark research. With summer right around the corner, people are thinking about trips to the beach. With beach trips come the fear of sharks. But in this book, we learn that sharks aren’t the vicious creatures we hear about on the news.

In the book, we learn that Clark made an unexpected career move for women in the 1940’s. But because of her boldness, we have a more accurate portrayal of this otherwise terrifying creature. 

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