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Word Links

From “Word Links: A Strategy for Developing Word Knowledge” by Ruth Helen Yopp

Standards: RL4, RIT4, SL1, SL6, L3, L4, L6

In this strategy, students work with tier-two words from a text or unit of study, although including some tier three words (specialized words of relatively low frequency, often limited to a specific domain) may be very useful. Students receive one word written on an index card or scrap of paper, or displayed on their iPad. Students find a partner whose word can be linked to their word. After a short conversation, pairs present to the whole group their answers to these questions: 

  • What do the words mean?
  • What do they have to do with each other?
  • How do they go together?


Word Links generated by RHS students:


"These words are connected because a diffident person refers to one who lacks confidence and would therefore refrain from using polysyllabic words."

REFRAIN                    AUDACITY

“These words are sort of opposites. To refrain from something means to hold back, but people who behave with audacity don’t hold back. They are bold. I would probably refrain from arguing with a police officer, but someone with audacity probably wouldn’t.”

FAUX PAS                  EXUBERANCE

"A faux pas is a social blunder. Exuberance is bubbling over with joy, high spirits, and enthusiasm. Sometimes a person who is filled with exuberance overreacts in a social setting and does something inappropriate, like meeting the President and slapping him on the back or giving him a high-five."

GUTTERAL                   FALSETTO

“Guttural and falsetto both have to do with sound. But they’re almost opposites because guttural is of the throat, harsh and almost forced. Falsetto is a high-pitched note or sound. An example would be when an opera singer has a sore throat. When an opera singer’s not feeling well, her normally falsetto tone could turn guttural.”

BARRIO                   LACQUER

"To lacquer is to cover something with a glossy coating. A barrio is an urban, Spanish-speaking community, often poor. The mayor of a city might lacquer the barrio with positive words to make his/her city seem less poor and more attractive to tourists."



"Cloistered means to be secluded from the world. Intrinsic means to belong to a thing by its very nature. When one feels like they are secluded, they don’t feel like they belong, so these words can be opposites. But they can also be related: when one feels that they belong intrinsically to something, they may not feel secluded, but that their belonging secludes them from everything else."