A Fun Process for Teaching Vocabulary

By on September 6, 2017

Teachers have mixed feelings about teaching vocabulary. Some love it. Others not so much. One thing all teachers have in common when talking about vocabulary is a need for good approaches to teaching new words to students. Whether you are using in-text vocabulary or words from a list, the following vocabulary process will surely add interest and energy to the teaching of new words.

Belief: To learn the meaning of new words, students must have a chance to interact (or play) with them.

Directions: Do these activities throughout the week or during specific instructional blocks of time.

Step 1: Visual Bridge and Story Telling

Show students visuals (whenever appropriate) of the new words. Add a story about the word while students are looking at a visual representation. When talking about a word, hold a large card with the word clearly written on it. Walk around the room so that all students can see you and the word as you talk. This teaching strategy is often referred to as word talk.

Step 2: Critical Concepts Table

Have students complete a Critical Concepts table so that they have a list of words and visuals to support the definitions. I like to have my students create their tables in their notes. You will need to teach students how to make the five columns by folding their note paper.

Step 3: Physical Representations

Create movement (or physical gestures) for each word so that students have another stimulus for remembering new words. This works best when all students stand and act out words together.

Step 4: Flip Boards

Give all students a small whiteboard or create them with card stock paper and clear, plastic report sleeves. Talk to students about the words or give definitions and have students quickly write words on their boards. Read Word Play with Flip Boards.

Step 5: Skits 

Move students into small groups and give each group a word. Groups should keep their words secret from the rest of the class. Students write skits and perform them in front of the class. Students in the audience take turns guessing the word. Get started with Vocabulary Skits.

This list of strategies and activities will engage students and help them learn new words that are important to your class. The process outlined above can be used to teach words in any subject area and will help your ESL students and students who learn by doing.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
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