Let’s face it. Teaching vocabulary can be just plain redundant and boring unless you have a deep repertoire of teaching options. As teachers, we have to mix things up and keep learning fresh and fun. But how?? Certainly, it’s not by having kids look up definitions in the dictionary, so let’s talk about the options we have to make vocabulary instruction fresh and fun!
Professional Reading about Vocabulary
If you’ve read many blogs, then you probaby have heard the title Bringing Words to Life. It is a quick read, but one that teachers need to read with post it notes in order to mark activities to use in the classroom. It takes 12-15 exposures for a word to become part of a student’s speaking and writing vocabulary, and therefore, we need a vocabulary teaching routine that is varied and frequent.
As we introduce new words, the process we use matters. With each word, I use the following steps which are recommended in Bringing Words to Life.
- Show and share the word. Say it and have students repeat it.
- Give context for the word. Share how the word is used within the text you’re reading.
- Explain the word’s meaning in words students understand versus the dictionary definition.
- Repeat the word together focusing on each syllable, the spelling pattern of the word, etc.
- Give other contexts for the word.
- Have students share examples of the word or related words.
- Repeat the word again and if there are other derivations, share them.
Vocabulary Building Activities:
- Have You Ever…? Use questioning about words to build context about them. Have you ever scampered up a tree? Who might scamper up a tree?
- Applause, Applause! With this one, kids clap when you share words that describe the focus word. You get everyone responding, and the reasoning behind their thinking too with follow up discussion.
- Idea Completions – With this activity, you give students a sentence frame for them to complete based on the context included.
- Word Association – With word association, you try to build connections by meaning and by origin. You might have word cards and have small groups decide through discussion which words they’d connect together OR other words that might connect to the focus words.
In addition to Bunko, another is fun game is Headbanz. All you need to do is have a set of vocabalary word cards that kids can tape to their foreheads. Then, students give clues about the word until the student can figure out the word on their forehead.
Other games commonly used include Bingo, Concentration, and Jeopardy. All you need are word cards and definition cards for many fun game options.
- Record kid friendly definitions
- Name examples and non-examples
- Identify derivations or synonyms
- Categorize the word using hashtags
- Sort words by part of speech
- Plan and write a story using them
- Create a word search for them and give word clues for a friend to solve
- and Create picture cards for each word.