Word Wheel

Word Work
Grade Level


Students use a concept map to organize their vocabulary learning. This tool requires students to define words, find examples, draw on prior knowledge and connect related concepts.


Before, during or after reading


Word wheels allow for thorough word analysis and deep understanding of unfamiliar words. Students must explore a word from several angles. The word wheel provides a visual reference for concepts and vocabulary.


  1. Choose vocabulary words from the central text. Decide whether to use word wheels during whole-group or small-group instruction or as independent work.
  2. Have students record the word’s definition on the worksheet. Students should use context clues in the central text to determine definition. When this is not possible, students should use dictionaries or teacher-provided definitions.
  3. If students are unfamiliar with the word wheel, consider doing the first four sections of the wheel as a class. Model the entire process all the way through at least once.
    • Section 1: part of speech
    • Section 2: word parts (roots, prefixes, suffixes)
    • Section 3: synonyms and similarities
    • Section 4: antonyms and differences
    • Section 5: personal association
    • Section 6: definition in student's own words
  4. Ask students to construct their own sentences using the new vocabulary word in an authentic context.

English Language Learners

Include an area on the word wheel concept map where students can draw or sketch.

Connection to anti-bias education

The question at the bottom of the word wheel challenges students to relate the new word to the anti-bias domains of identity, diversity, justice or action. Students must consider the larger social and historical context of the central text.

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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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