Introducing Word Heroes

Word Heroes is an exciting K–2 literacy program from Drs. Isabel Beck and Margaret McKeown. Its powerful combination of vocabulary and comprehension instruction supercharges literacy and language!

Zaner-Bloser is excited to welcome Word Heroes to our lineup of literacy programs, so we’re offering free shipping* to schools everywhere.

In Word Heroes classrooms, there is a hum of lively conversation where words and texts are constantly being noticed, investigated, celebrated, and savored. Students enthusiastically demonstrate deep understanding of complex texts and delight in discovering new words. The Word Heroes Wowbands allow them to wear their words proudly and celebrate success.

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Isabel Beck headshot Margaret McKeown headshot

The Dynamic Duo Behind the Program

Program authors Isabel Beck, PhD, and Margaret McKeown, PhD, created Word Heroes to put all students, including at-risk learners and English learners, on a path of excellence. Their method of robust vocabulary instruction has been shown to effectively reduce the language gap among young students and improve overall comprehension.

Meet the Authors

Lessons That Pack a One-Two Punch

Each of the three grade levels of the program contains eight four-week instructional units that integrate vocabulary and comprehension instruction in 20 minutes a day.

With Word Heroes, knowledge of Tier 2 “Wow Words” supports comprehension of text while comprehension instruction with authentic read-aloud text reinforces attention to language as students move from general to deeper understanding. Lesson activities are age-appropriate, the five-day routine is highly active, and students learn 120 new words in each level.

Ready to learn more about the program’s power-packed instruction? Request information about Word Heroes today.

Research into Practice

With Word Heroes, Drs. Beck and McKeown provide research-based instruction that really works. By combining lessons on robust, high-impact words with complex, authentic texts, they are putting over 30 years of research and practical application right into teachers’ hands—using the elements of HEROic literacy instruction.

High-impact Words

Not all words are worth teaching. Many are too simple while others are too domain-specific. For that reason, Word Heroes delivers targeted instruction in robust, high-utility words—the kinds of words that maximize students’ knowledge of language and depth of comprehension.

Encounters in Various Contexts

For vocabulary instruction to have an impact, students need multiple opportunities to see and interact with new words. Word Heroes’ systematic and proven approach ensures that students encounter words many times in many contexts. The result? Deep and lasting knowledge of word meanings.

Reading Comprehension

While essential, vocabulary instruction alone is not enough to help students reach the ultimate goal: to grow into better readers and writers. That’s why every Word Heroes lesson delivers integrated instruction focused on the meaning of words and texts.

Oral Language Instruction

Before students can understand a word in written texts, they must be able to understand and use it in their oral language. With Word Heroes, classrooms become a word conscious zone where teachers and students participate in lively discussions and collaborative activities that build oral language.

What’s Included in Word Heroes?

Engaging materials, authentic texts, and consistent active learning routines make Word Heroes a fun and effective way to supercharge vocabulary and comprehension. Each of three levels—Recruit (grade K), Apprentice (grade 1), and Specialist (grade 2)—contains everything you need to deliver eight power-packed units over 32 weeks.

  • Teacher’s Guides—Explicit lessons with differentiation for English learners
  • Word Heroes Journals—Valuable student learning portfolio and keepsake
  • Photo Cards—Visual context for each Wow Word (front) and explicit oral language instruction (back)
  • Word Cards—Ready-to-use Wow Words
  • Word Heroes Chart—Large, motivational wall chart with pockets for cards
  • Program Guide—Expert tips and best practices for implementation
  • Online Teacher Resources—Including wearable take-home Wowband bracelets for every Wow Word
Watch Materials Overview Video
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What will you do today to ensure your students become word heroes?


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