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The Stephens Vocabulary Elaboration Strategy (SVES) requires students to maintain a vocabulary notebook. Whenever a new (or unclear) word confronts a student, the student writes and defines the term in the vocabulary notebook. Students should regularly review these words with the ultimate goal of integrating them into their working vocabularies.

This strategy stresses dictionary skills. Students use a dictionary to define new words and their parts of speech. The dictionary also points out the multiple meanings of many words. Students use critical thinking skills to analyze the specific content of a reading selection to determine the most appropriate definition of a word.

Steps to Stephens Vocabulary Elaboration Strategy (SVES):

  1. Require students to obtain a spiral notebook to record new vocabulary words.

  2. Ask students to write any new or unclear word in the notebook. Also, ask them to write the context in which the word was used.

  3. Require students to write dictionary definitions (including the parts of speech) by any new word in their notebooks. For words with multiple definitions, students should select the most appropriate meaning for the context.

  4. Encourage students to also define the terms in their own language and compare their thoughts with the dictionary definitions. Personal definitions should be revised to more precisely reflect the meaning conveyed in the dictionary, without sacrificing the individual's vocabulary.

  5. Ask students to regularly review their growing vocabulary list. Encourage students to use these new words in their written and oral presentations.

Learn More:

  • Brown, Jean E., Phillips, Lela B., and Stephens, Elaine C. (1993). Towards literacy: theory and applications for teaching writing in the content areas. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

  • Stephens Vocabulary Elaboration Strategy


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