Teaching Vocabulary

Numerous methods are available to teachers when teaching vocabulary, and for quite some time I had a very difficult time teaching it. However, I focused on vocabulary acquisition during my masters work a couple years ago and have created new ways of teaching vocabulary.

Tomorrow I will post some photos of student examples showing what we do to practice on my white boards, but for today here is what I posted previously about my weekly routine for teaching vocabulary:

Last year I made vocabulary a focus in my English classroom, beyond the simple literary terms upon which we English teachers focus. I decided I was tired of 65% averages on quizzes. I figured I must be doing something wrong, so I used my Masters classes as a way to better my teaching (fancy that!). I even told the kids they were part of a study, which they enjoyed.

Here’s what I do now.

Mondays (40 minutes)
1. The previous week’s practice work turned in (puzzle and charts)
2. A vocabulary quiz over the previous week’s words
3. A crossword puzzle with the new words (and the old ones)
4. A chart where students create sentences for the each new word
5. A chart where the students draw a picture for each new word

Wednesdays (15 minutes)
1. 3-5 students write their sentences and pictures on the board (each student gets a different word)

Thursdays (15 minutes)
1. 3-5 students write their sentences and pictures on the board (each student gets a different word)

Fridays (10 minutes)
1. Students brainstorm synonyms for the words
2. Synonyms listed on the board

Lastly, I have the students spell the words, match them to definitions, fill in blanks in sentences, compose sentences or stories, share their pictures and explain how they are appropriate, and more. I have some of the traditional quizzes, but I also try to mix it up a bit and the kids seem to appreciate it.

We get to practice the words, talk about them, connect them to images, apply new words to situations, and generally share ideas. It’s great!

They also like the routine we’ve created because they see their immediate successes. Now averages range from 85-90% on the quizzes.

10 thoughts on “Teaching Vocabulary

  1. Kristi

    I have been using a strategy called a Word Sort – you make a word document with 10-30 squares. In each square, write a vocabulary word or idea you’re teaching. The students can sort the words into groups of synonyms, words that fit together, anything you’d like.

    My students love it and they’re excited to learn – just something I have in my bag of tricks. I learned it from a book, Classroom Strategies for Dynamic Teachers at http://www.markoandassociates.com. There are tons more ideas in the book just like this one.

  2. Hugh ODonnell

    I always get excited when people talk about teaching vocabulary. Vocabulary is the gateway to thought!

    I will be forever grateful to my Dad, whom I had for Latin II, for his requirement that we learn 100 Latin words per week, (and we were quizzed weekly). Along with Latin grammar, which aligns with English grammar, the vocab study set me up to cruise comfortably in the verbal world.

    Looking forward to reading more, Dr. Pezz…

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  4. drpezz Post author

    Kristi, I will check out the site you gave me. Thanks!

    Hugh, I love working with vocabulary. I never had any formal vocabulary taught to me, so I know how much extra work it was for me later. I just hope I can help a few of my students avoid the struggles I had.

  5. Tammy Gillmore

    Thanks! I’ll try it out.

    With each multi-genre unit, I am using a list of 60+ SAT words that goes with the novel/drama we are reading.

    My students are scoring higher this year…using PowerPoint with pictures, sample sentences, antonyms, and synonyms. They will appreciate a puzzle!

    Thanks again!

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