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Classroom Strategies



List-Group-Label is a vocabulary strategy that engages students in a three-step process to actively organize their understanding of content area vocabulary and concepts.

It provides students with a way to recognize the relationships between words and concepts using their prior knowledge about a topic. The list-group-label strategy can be used before and after students read.


List-Group-Label makes words come alive for students through their conversations and reflections on the “meaning connections” between words. It actively engages students in learning new vocabulary and content by activating their critical thinking skills.

Create and use the strategy

After selecting a main concept in a reading passage: 

  1. List: Have students brainstorm all the words they think relate to the topic.
    1. Visually display student responses. 
    2. At this point do not critique student responses. Some words may not reflect the main concept, but hopefully students will realize this as they begin grouping the words in the next step.
  2. Group: Divide your class into small groups. Each group will work to cluster the class list of words into subcategories. As groups of words emerge, challenge your students to explain their reasoning for placing words together or discarding them.
  3. Label: Invite students to suggest a title or label for the groups of words they have formed. These labels should relate to their reasoning for the grouping.


  • Although List-Group-Label may begin as a pre-reading activity, students should return to it as they read through and the text related to the major concept they brainstormed about. They may find they should add words from their reading or re-label the groups of words they created.
  • Encourage students to discard words very cautiously, particularly during the prereading portion of the strategy. Often the best conversation between students centers around words that don’t immediately fall into a major category.


Lenski, S. D., Wham, M. A., & Johns, J. L. (1999). Reading and learning strategies for middle and high school students. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Taba, H. (1967).Teacher’s handbook for elementary social studies. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.