Season 8, Episode 7

Vocabulary is unconstrained, with Tanya S. Wright

As a writer of several books for teachers and parents, former kindergarten teacher, and current associate professor of language and literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University, Tanya S. Wright, Ph.D., has maintained focus on a singular question: How can we most effectively work with students in the early education setting? In answering that question, Wright has researched and written on two interesting areas: vocabulary development, and best practices for literacy development in young children. Listeners will come away from this conversation with some great tips and strategies for developing vocabulary, working effectively with younger students, and integrating writing and vocabulary.

Meet our guest(s):

Tanya S. Wright, Ph.D.

Tanya S. Wright is an associate professor of language and literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. A former kindergarten teacher, Wright’s research and teaching have focused on early childhood and elementary language and literacy curriculum and instruction. The author of several books for teachers and parents, Wright’s work has been published in journals such as American Educator, The Elementary School Journal, The Reading Teacher, and more.

Wright was the winner of the International Literacy Association Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2012 and the Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading Award in 2022. Teacher and lead author of SOLID Start Curriculum, and leads the literacy integration team/serves as co-lead of the K–2 instructional design team for the OpenSciEd Elementary curriculum development project.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Lambert is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Lambert explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Lambert is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“We need kids to be able to sound out the words, but we also need them to know what they mean. Otherwise, the text won't make sense. So we really need to be working on both of these at the same time.” —Tanya S. Wright
“Really value what kids bring to the classroom, even if it's not perfect yet, or if it's not exactly what adults would say.” —Tanya S. Wright
“It's really important that we're thinking about purposeful, planned, and intentional vocabulary supports to make sure that everybody is included in the learning and can participate in the classroom.” —Tanya S. Wright
“Realistically, kids love to learn big words. They make use of them. They don't really differentiate it. So that's an adult imposition, right? Which ones are the big ones or which ones are the hard ones? If we use them with kids, they will use them too. And enjoy it.” —Tanya S. Wright