Teaching Strategy

Illustrated Vocabulary

Word Work
Grade Level


In this visual strategy, students divide vocabulary words into parts and draw illustrations to represent the separate meaning of each part.


Before reading


This strategy teaches students to identify the components that make up a word’s meaning and to understand relationships among words that share components. Visual representation supports students’ vocabulary recall.


  1. Choose vocabulary words or have students identify unfamiliar words from the text. From those, select words that have more than one clear word part, like an affix or root.
  2. Working individually or in pairs, have students break the word up into its parts. For each part, students should find the meaning and illustrate it with images representing the part’s meaning.  
  3. Have students record the information and their illustrations on an index card (see sample).

Connection to anti-bias education

Illustrated vocabulary allows students to integrate visualization and personal meaning into their learning. Such student-centered instructional strategies contribute to inclusive classrooms where students feel comfortable talking about how they see things.

Sample illustrated vocabulary:

This image illustrates the word geologist. The object on the left next to the glasses is a magnifying glass indicating close study.