Think back to when you were a student in school. Do you recall how vocabulary was taught to you? Do you remember copying the definitions from the dictionary? Or maybe you used them in a story? (better) You might have even had a vocabulary workbook. Well, certainly, things have changed, and we now realize how important it is for students to have explicit vocabulary instruction, multiple exposures to the words, their meaning, and their usage, and we even know that all words aren’t equal (or the ways that we teach them!) So, what is a teacher to do? With so many demands on time, how do we get the most bang for the teaching buck? The answer…make vocabulary instruction part of all instruction with a purposeful plan. How you might ask?
When I completed my program in reading education, Bringing Words to Life was the text for one of the courses, and I found it to be THE BEST book for vocabulary instruction. It is filled with simple lesson ideas that require few materials, but are easy to implement. You can purchase it for about $15.00, and you will not regret it because it will be a text you’ll go back to periodically for a refresher.
So, here are a few takeaways I’ve gotten from this book. My plan is to share five today in this post, but as I type, I may come up with more and in that case, there will be a second installment on this topic.
Be strategic with your read alouds.
Choose read alouds that have rich vocabulary and prior to reading, select the words that you wish to specifically teach your students. Discussion is a must with teaching vocabulary because students need 12-15 exposures to a word for it to sink in. Discuss examples and non-examples, how to use the word, and compare it to other similar words in intensity. As you discuss the words, record and post them for future reference.
Celebrate “wow” words in writing.
Using a graffiti wall where students can share their “wow” words for others to copy encourages your students to focus on word choice as they write, and we know that reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Another way to celebrate wow words is to have a funeral for dead words. I love this bulletin board idea from Learning Focused. Here’s another from Fabulous in Fifth.
- First, the teacher explains a new word by sharing the word, how it’s used, adding details about the word.
- Then, the students take a turn working with the word by giving a meaning in their own language. Students can record it in writing or through discussion.
- Once students have explained the word, adding a picture or way to remember the word would be next. In this step, pairing students adds in a little discussion and extra thinking about it.
- As a follow up, have your students work with the words in activities to deepen their knowledge of the new word. Have them compare words or categorize them. (part of speech, words related to XXX, etc.)
- Continue during your week to allow your students discuss the new word (pair-share, elbow partners). Games such as Would You Rather? work well for this step.
- As maintenance, have your students periodically play games to review new vocabulary to keep them solidly in mind.