Vocabulary Pictures

I started having my students create pictures for each of their vocabulary words, and their vocabulary scores jumped immediately. Along with a few other minor tweaks and adjustments, my students–when they do what I ask–perform at a very high level when using new vocabulary words.


I included a picture that one of my students created for the word “culmination.” I like this drawing of the word because it simply and directly conveys the word’s meaning without any complex artistic ability needed. The students quickly present their pictures and explain how the definition matches the drawing, and the other students in the class may steal that picture or keep their own. Regardless, the students have a visual representation of the word.

DilemmaHere is another picture one of my students created for the word “dilemma.” I like this one because the student (with a sly smile) explained that she was trying to decide between finishing her vocabulary homework and her reading, and it was a dilemma since she “wanted to do them both at the same time” because they are the “most important.” This made me laugh because I joke with the kids that English is the most important and should be done first, and I enjoy it when the students joke back with me.

Non-linguistic representations are a key component of Marzano’s system of teaching students, and, when my district provided a training on Marzano’s research-based teaching strategies, I felt good about the ways I have my students work. I like routines as well, and the training reinforced my affinity for routines, so my students know which days we will practice vocabulary and when any quizzes might be given. I believe this reduces stress and allows students to feel more comfortable in the classroom.

4 thoughts on “Vocabulary Pictures

  1. Martha

    I am doing vocabulary words right now… mostly Latin/Greek roots and then “example words” which use them. Could you tell me in a few sentences how you set up this drawing lesson? I assume you just parcel out ten or so words to each student and ask them to draw each one?
    Any other tips? Thanks! I’m a first-year teacher trying to get ideas!

  2. drpezz Post author

    Basically, what you described is accurate, but the key is getting the kids to share them and explain the rationale for the pictures. This cements the meaning in their memory and allows the metacognitive processes to deepen their understandings of the words.

  3. Simon Lindgren

    I have just created a website, where teachers from all over the world can share and create flashcards. With wordJuggle.com, the name of my website, you ensure student interaction and student motivation. Try it now! Choose 30 days for free at http://www.wordjuggle.com. We’ll upgrade you to a full membership.

  4. Alyssha Ginzel

    Hi Dr. Pezz,

    I’m a secondary education English major at Northern Michigan University in Michgian’s U.P. I was researching ways to alter vocabulary assignments in hopes of increasing student retention and application of words. I think your idea to use images to supplement vocabulary lessons is a great idea. I could even see this method working with terms in other fields like social studies or math. I was wondering…do you think this type of lesson is appropriate for all ages? And do your students ever run into any obstacles when completing this assignment?

    Thanks for the great idea! I’m looking forward to exploring your site more!

    Alyssha Ginzel


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