Tier 2 Vocabulary

Speech Therapy

Since vocabulary is the foundation of language, I always want to make sure that I am up-to-date on the latest research and that my materials/techniques have the biggest impact for my clients. I only have 45 minutes a week!

To make the most out of my time, I tend to focus on tier 2 vocabulary. Find out why and how here.

On this page, I have:

  1. quick review of the three tiers of vocabulary
  2. current research review
  3. FREE materials that are teletherapy-friendly!

Keep scrolling to grab all three!

1. Vocabulary Tiers

Some of you might be wondering...."what is tier 2 vocabulary?" You are not alone!

Let's start from the beginning so it makes sense!

Tier 1 vocabulary

Tier 1 vocabulary is general, basic vocabulary. Most kids don't require direct, explicit instruction for this tier. Children typically learn them just by going through life!

  • Some examples of tier 1 vocabulary: clock, baby, sleep, ball, blue

According to Super Duper, the English language has 7,000 tier 1 word families.

Tier 2 Vocabulary

Tier 2 vocabulary is the "sweet spot" I feel. This tier of vocabulary consists of high-frequency words that can be used across subjects, settings, and/or domains. 

  • Some examples of tier 2 vocabulary: follow, example, measure.

These words will pop up in different classes and different settings (school, grocery store, home). I like to say that speech therapists get "more bang for their buck" when focusing on this tier since students/clients will hear and use these words throughout the day.  

According to Super Duper, the English language has 8,000 tier 1 word families.

Tier 3 Vocabulary

Tier 3 consists of content/domain specific words. This means, the words in this tier are specific to a subject, situation, job, and/or hobby.

  • For example, echolalia and apraxia of speech are specific to speech therapy. Alloy and isomer are words specific to chemistry. 

According to Super Duper, the English language has 400,000 word families.

2. Vocabulary Instruction Techniques

To make sure I was up-to-date on my vocabulary instruction, I headed over to the Informed SLP. 

I didn't find anything groundbreaking but I did enjoy the review of this article: "Building Semantic Networks: The Impact of a Vocabulary Intervention on Preschoolers’ Depth of Word Knowledge" has taught me a lot of vocabulary instruction. 

The article basically discusses key components of vocabulary therapy.

My main takeaways were:

  • Exposures across different contexts is key for generalization.
  • Explicitly teach the meaning (not just incidental teaching through stories or "teachable moments") is necessary.
  • Relating words together creates word depth.

Relating words together consists of:

  • categories - what group does it belong to?
  • opposites - what means the opposite?
  • synonyms - what means the same thing?
  • thematical units- what goes together?
  • taxonomy - how to organize/classify a word

3. Tier 2 Vocabulary Materials (no-print!)

Now on to the good stuff! Materials we can actually use! 

As part of the Speech Therapy Memberbership Program, I created 4 different TELETHERAPY-FRIENDLY card decks for tier 2 vocabulary words. Each deck has the same words and each contain 64 words.

The decks target:

  • Definition
  • Opposites
  • Synonyms
  • Use it in a sentence

Theory Behind Materials

Definition With A Visual

I made sure that each card had a real-life picture. Defining a word, relating a word, etc... with a visual is key for our clients. 

They can use the visual to create the definition and use the visual to recall the definition outside of the therapy room. 

Multiple Exposures

I made 4 different decks on purpose!

  • I introduce/teach a few words at a time during a session.
  • The next session, I can bring up those same words but in a new "form" such as opposites and review the words. 
  • The following session, I can bring up the same words and practice creating sentences using the same tier 2 vocabulary words.

You get the picture!

Short Bursts

I made these cards to be quick and short so they can be used during games, for a review, etc....

I do have other vocabulary materials that delve deep into one tier 2 word. However, this can take awhile and doesn't always fit into the session. For some children, these short bursts are all that they can handle!


After teaching or reviewing tier 2 vocabulary, My FAVORITE thing to do is to read a book and challenge my clients to find the word/concept while reading!

This is a favorite and checks the box for multiples exposures.

Want the materials already?


For current Speech Therapy Talk members, Please click this link to access materials:


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