Four-Fold Vocabulary

Word Work
Grade Level


Interactive “foldables” help students learn new vocabulary through defining, illustrating and using words in sentences.


Before, during and after reading.


Four-Fold Vocabulary supports visual, auditory and kinesthetic vocabulary learning. This strategy teaches students to generalize and apply new vocabulary when reading challenging texts.


  1. Choose your vocabulary words.
  2. Distribute the template. Model folding the template lengthwise (hot dog fold) into four columns.
  3. Model folding the template in the opposite direction to make the number of rows equal to the number of words.
  4. Write a word in the first row (student writes the word).
  5. Direct students to write a definition in their own words in the second column. Prompt students to define the word by using context clues from the central text.
  6. Have students confirm their definition with classmates or classroom resources (e.g., dictionaries).
  7. Direct students to draw a symbol or picture to represent the word in the third column.
  8. Direct students to write an original sentence using the word in the fourth column.
  9. Continue the process for each vocabulary word you selected in step one.
  10. Cut apart the four columns and all rows. Each word, definition, symbol and sentence should now be its own individual piece.
  11. Have student review the vocabulary by reassembling the pieces into the correct rows.
  12. Store the pieces in an envelope. Students can trade envelopes with classmates for further vocabulary review.

English language learners

Foldables are interactive and allow students to control their learning. You can modify the Four-Fold Vocabulary strategy to include native language translations of the word. Graphic representations also benefit English language learners by crossing language barriers.

Connection to anti-bias education

The Four-Fold Vocabulary strategy gives students ownership in selecting target words from the central text. The interactive, engaging strategy encourages classroom community and collaboration among students. Multiple learning modalities are honored through visual, auditory and kinesthetic interaction with the central text vocabulary, so all students have the opportunity to build vocabulary knowledge.

Abolitionists William Still, Sojourner Truth, William Loyd Garrison, unidentified male and female slaves, and Black Union soldiers in front of American flag

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