Favorite Methods of Teaching VocabularySo, we all have our favorite, tried and true methods of working with vocabulary, but we also know that the same method becomes predictable and dull, not only...

Favorite Methods of Teaching Vocabulary

So, we all have our favorite, tried and true methods of working with vocabulary, but we also know that the same method becomes predictable and dull, not only for our students but for us as well.  I tend to fall back on Jim Burke's vocabulary squares, available in his Tools for Thought book (if you don't have it, get it, and no, I don't get paid for plugging his book), requiring students to work with synonymns, antonmyms, variations, illustrating the word, defining the word (of course), and using in a thoughtful sentence.  I've tried word walls with minimal success, but I'm looking for more variance.  What works for you?

Expert Answers
ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm always looking for ways to make teaching vocabulary more fun, too.  Sometimes, I ask each student to write a noun on a piece of paper and then put it in a hat.  Next, I ask students to pair up and choose one paper from the hat.  (The nouns students write can be general or specific: tigers, Harry Potter, etc.) 

Using their vocabulary words, I have each pair of students write a paragraph (or a few paragraphs, depending on how many words we have) about the noun they picked out of the hat.  The paragraphs can be ridiculous, as long as the students have used the words correctly (and, as clairewait says, they haven't just turned the definition into a sentence).  The kids usually enjoy this activity, and since we read the paragraphs aloud, they're more able to remember what each word means. 

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes to #4.  Throw out the word lists.  Throw out the memorizing and regurgitating.

But here is my favorite Vocab lesson:

Vocabulary in context.  Tried and true - all ages - all ability levels - all novel studies.  Love it.

Provide the word and the definition.  Have student determine the part of speech, then write a "meaningful sentence" using the word correctly (silly and run-on is fine as long as the sentence doesn't explicitly contain the definition).

Share sentences aloud and make the class guess the meaning of the word.  It is fun.  It is engaging.  It is simple - but meaningful.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If these are terms that students have to memorize, providing them a method in which they have to process the word in different ways is helpful. I use an organizer that looks like a spider. the word goes in the "belly". Then on one of the leg sections students have to write the definition. On another leg section they have to write an synonym of the word. On another they write an antonym. They write a sentence using the word in correct context. They also draw an image or graphic representation of the word. This gives them multiple ways of remembering and accessing the definition in the future.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best thing, in my mind of course, is to find ways to have children enjoy reading.  Reading and reading and reading and reading will drive them to build their own mechanisms for understand new words as well as expose them to lots of them.

Of course using those words in discussions and in everyday use will help to reinforce them, but reading in my mind and in practice that I've seen has been absolutely the best thing to really build a vocabulary.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't like teaching vocabulary the way I do it, in isolation, but my school has vocabulary workbooks I have to use.  I try to teach my students how to use flash cards, because it's a skill that will aid them in the future.  I also teach them how to use synonyms and memory devices.

lmallow eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One method that I use for teaching vocabulary is the use of a graphic organizer.  In this organizer the student draws a picture that represents the word, writes a personal definition, uses the word in a sentence, and writes a definition from the dictionary.

arnilynne | Student
Favorite Methods of Teaching Vocabulary

So, we all have our favorite, tried and true methods of working with vocabulary, but we also know that the same method becomes predictable and dull, not only for our students but for us as well.  I tend to fall back on Jim Burke's vocabulary squares, available in his Tools for Thought book (if you don't have it, get it, and no, I don't get paid for plugging his book), requiring students to work with synonymns, antonmyms, variations, illustrating the word, defining the word (of course), and using in a thoughtful sentence.  I've tried word walls with minimal success, but I'm looking for more variance.  What works for you?

I teach the wee beasties (Kinder/1st) in the international schools and have seen alot of success with www.ReadingKey.com. And, no i'm not getting a commission for promoting their site.  Its straightforward, gives grade by grade comprehensive word lists, activities, fluency buiding word-walls, even games using words most commonly found in books by most widely used publishers--houghton-mifflin, rigby, scholastic, etc. etc.

I find that when working with younger kids and English language learners-- simple, fun repeated activities and catchy visuals go a long long way.

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