EL Support Lesson

Word Problem Vocabulary Preparation

Prepare your ELs for word problems involving income and money in this vocabulary-based lesson. Use this lesson on its own or as support to the lesson Multi-Step Word Problems.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Multi-Step Word Problems lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Multi-Step Word Problems lesson plan.

Students will be able to understand key vocabulary to help solve multi-step word problems.


Students will be able explain the meaning of new vocabulary using graphic organizers and peer supports.

(5 minutes)
  • Ask students how much income they earn, or get every day. Allow them to think for a moment and then share their answers with partners. Listen for their answers and write them on the board.
  • Begin a word map with the word income in the middle and ask students to define the term. Display the vocabulary cards and read the meaning. Have students choral read the word and allow them to adjust their previous answers about how much income they earn.
  • Draw a line out from the word income and write "earnings" and circle it. Ask volunteers to share ideas about how they, or someone they know, gets earnings from work they do. Have volunteers share aloud their answers.
  • Display the vocabulary card earn and define it. Start a sub-bubble from the oval "earnings" and write the definition in the new bubble for the word "earn."
  • Say a word problem using the words "income" and "earn." For example, "Santi earns $30 every week delivering newspapers. He saved all his money for four weeks. How much money does he have total?" Have students tell you which words are the keywords in the problem (e.g., "earn," "save," "total," "four weeks," etc.).
  • Tell students that today they'll learn about the meanings of words relating to money and income to help them answer word problems in future lessons.
(8 minutes)
  • Display and distribute the complete copy of the vocabulary cards and read the meanings of the words.
  • Have students repeat the meanings, say the words again, and then tell them an example of the word in a sentence with familiar vocabulary. For example, say, "The principal taxed everyone $1 when they came to school late. She made them pay $1 for being late."
  • Tell students that some of the vocabulary terms correspond with the meanings of words they'll find in word problems (i.e., "income," "tax," "earn," etc.) and some of them will help them fill out a Frayer Model (i.e., "nonexamples," "examples," etc.).
  • Model completing the Frayer Model for the word "tax." While thinking aloud what to place in each box, you can model using an online dictionary for more meanings and ideas for nonexamples.
  • Review each section and have a student explain what they need to do in the section. Tell students they will now work in groups to complete their own Frayer Model for their assigned words.
(10 minutes)
  • Conduct a jigsaw activity where each group of five students has a word they will use to complete a Frayer Model on chart paper. Use the words "percentage," "income," "save," and "earn" and allow words to repeat if you need more than four groups.
  • Model presenting your Frayer Model for the word "tax." Write the sentences on the board and then write the sentence frames that correspond with the descriptions you shared:
    • "The meaning of the word ____ is ____."
    • "I drew the picture ____ because ____."
    • "An example of ____ is ____."
    • "A nonexample of ____ is ____."
  • Assign the five students in each group a number 1–5 and have them label the boxes in the Frayer Model 1–5 (excluding the word). The student with the corresponding number will present that section of the Frayer Model for the group.
(8 minutes)
  • Have groups share the meanings of the words. While groups share, have students take notes on their glossaries in the fourth column. Have students write one interesting thing they heard about the vocabulary word from the group who presented. They can use the sentence stem, "I liked ____."
  • Give guidance to group presenters. Tell them to share each section of the square using the sentence frames listed on the board from your modeled example.
  • Choose a few students to share the interesting idea from their glossary sheets.


  • Allow students to use their home language (L1) or their new language (L2) in all discussions. Provide bilingual reference materials to assist in their vocabulary word acquisition.
  • Encourage students to use the vocabulary cards and terms in their conversations and writing. Allow them to draw pictures to support their understanding of the terms.
  • Add sentence frames to the Frayer Models students will complete throughout the lesson. Leave space for them to draw pictures next to their sentences.
  • Have them practice their presentation in partners before saying it in front of the class.


  • Pair students with mixed-ability groups so they can offer explanations and provide feedback to beginning ELs when appropriate.
  • Have students work in the group that has the more difficult words, such as "income" or "percentage."
  • Ask them to share their ideas first to model phrases other students can use. Write some of their explanations on the board to serve as examples for others.
(6 minutes)
  • Distribute the pre-cut vocabulary cards so that each student has either a definition or a vocabulary term. Ask students to find their partners by matching the pre-cut vocabulary cards. Once they find their match, have them review the terms by either defining it, creating a sentence, or giving a synonym of the word.
  • Then, ask students to complete their own Frayer Model for their vocabulary term.
(3 minutes)
  • Refer back to the word problem from the Introduction section and ask a volunteer to reread the problem.
  • Point to the keyword (i.e., earnings) and ask students to turn and talk to their partners about the meaning and what what the word means for the word problem.
  • Have a student tell you what operation they would need for the words "earned," "saved," and "four weeks." Then, model saying the problem with no numbers involved. For example, "Santi saved his money for weeks. How much money does he have saved?"
  • Tell students that knowing key vocabulary within word problems can help them understand the problem and easily rephrase it in their own words.

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