11 Replies Latest reply: Nov 14, 2011 12:24 AM by choltzman RSS

Vocabulary Development

Jeanne Rogers Apprentice
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What strategies do you use to help students learn new words in the varied content areas?  I overheard a teacher assigning a list of words to students and having them write the definition.  Is this 'old' school?  If so, why?  What works for you and your students?

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    tabryant New User
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    In the arts/humanities area, I had a teacher that made us draw illustrations that signified the vocabulary word, which was somewhat effective (at least it required students to think more creatively in terms of how to get the vocab word across to the reader/viewer; and all it required was paper and a writing/drawing utensil). It might be cool to take that same concept and have students either take photos that represent the word, or create very short movies (seconds long) that get the word's definition across. Granted, students would need access to equipment (cameras) to do this; and the younger the student, the less complex one would want to have the assignment (it'd be easier for a high school student to upload media content to a place like Blackboard vs. an elementary school student). But since we're such a visual culture, it makes sense to give students opportunities to visually contextualize new words.  

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    leeann New User
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    I do believe looking up and writing definitions is "old school".  Students need to associate new vocabulary with prior knowledge.  I like using graphic organizers help learners tie new learning to what they already know.  The one I used recently is divided into four sections. In section one, a definition is written is the student's own words.  In section two they write a synonym.  Section three is a statement of what it is not or antonym and section four is an illustration. 


    Tiffany,  I like the idea of taking photos that represent the word.  I think middle school students would love it!

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    jheady New User
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    I think building vocabulary is essential across the curriculum and teachers should try lots of creative strategies to get students to make connectons with prior knowledge and learn new words--everyday.  In the social studies it is so important to frontload vocabulary that students will encounter in text they will be required to read--especially ELL students who will be hung up on one specific word that may or may not really be essential to understanding the main ideas in a reading passage, article, or chapter.  If they learn the word ahead of time it allows the opportunity to move through text smoothly with more access to high level content.


    The web site http://www.readingquest.org/strat/ offers some fun strategies to "mix it up" for social studies teachers who are looking for new ways to build vocab--lots of ideas to try, modify, use for your own purposes. Another thing I do is put a bunch of words on the board and ask students to work in small groups to define the words themselves without the use of dictionaries or computer search engines--and it seems that as a group we can usually arrive at having some good understanding of words before we begin reading--the interactions and discussions usually seem to make the words stick!  Of course when kids get lost I'm there to redirect conversations and provide contextual examples to increase liklihood of understanding, and ultimately to come through with the definition of students do not know.  Also--I'm exploring the sites associated with Thinkfinity and I believe there are many great ideas and strategies available here as well!

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    tami New User
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    I use a variety of tools to facilitate student learning of vocabulary words.  When I introduce the words, we discuss the parts of the words that provide clues as to the meaning of the word (suffix or prefix).  The words are displayed on the word wall (they create the color-coded card* for posting).  We also use various graphic organizers in the beginning of the year to expand their horizons and to expose the students to different graphic organizers for different content areas/purposes.


    At the end of a designated period (end of unit or weekly formative), I review all the vocabulary words that have been discussed.  The words are displayed randomly on the Smart Board.  The students sort the words as they see fit and then explain how they sorted the words.  From each grouping, they have to describe how the words are connected or what they have in common.


    The dictionary work is done in the beginning as a group task (for modeling) but after the initial introductory period, the students are expected to look up unfamiliar words as needed.


    I love words and I think my enthusiasm is infectious!


    *each content area has a different color

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    4everteaching New User
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    I teach middle school gifted and talented students, and most plan to take Advanced English and/or take the SAT.  I found a SAT vocabulary book that provides visual clues for their words.  I decided to add a few of the words in with my writing curriculum.  I use their pictures to introduce the words, but then I have the students complete a graphic organizer that they create on their laptops that includes their own visual clue, a couple of sentence with a varied prefix or ending, synonyms and antonyms, and their own form of the definiton for the word.  Last year, I used a variation of this program with my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.  I was amazed at how they used them; now I am amazed at how many they have retained. 


    I should also say that they LOVE them.  They ask me for the WOW (Words Of the Week) words and bring to my attention where they hear or see the words used. The compete to make the best sentences with the words and the find or create the best visual clue.  It has added so much to my reading and writing instruction. 

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    rchang.2001 New User
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    Whether the student is learning vocabulary in English or in learning a 2nd language, the importance is the same.


    Each student brings a different level of awareness, interest, and knowledge to the classroom. At the high school level, I ask the students to keep their own vocabulary lists. The vocab is based on assigned readings. They are asked to write either a definition, a synonym, an antonym, or draw a picture. I think each student has to decide what is best to help retention. We then play various games to build retention - pictionary, taboo, charades...


    Learning is cool - spread the joy!


    PS Here are some Thinkfinity interactives that can help different grade levels:

    Animal Inquiry Words K  -  2 |  Interactive

    With this student interactive, from a ReadWriteThink lesson, students explore an interactive notebook to learn about the scientific vocabulary related to the...

    URL: http://interactives.mped.org/vocabulary741.aspx


    Comic Vocabulary 9  -  12 |  Interactive

    In this student interactive, from a ReadWriteThink lesson, students explore a pictorial glossary to learn about the vocabulary related to the text, layout and...

    URL: http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/comic/vocabulary.html


    Ruth D. Chang

    French Teacher/Thinkfinity Trainer

    Middlesex County ETTC, NJ

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    alisonk613 New User
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    I find that students need to learn a few words at a time.  I teach an Anatomy class, which has its own "language" of terms.  So each day, I will start the class with 3 new words and then review the 3 words from the day before. Students need to learn prefix-suffixes for majority of anatomical terminology, once they know these, the word meanings come easier. I also find that flashcards work the best.  I love them!  There is a great site studymate.com where students can make virtual flashcards and play different games with the vocab.  These can also be downloaded to smart phones through studymate app.  I introduced this to my students this yeasr and they love it.  We are also saving lots of trees. 

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    jkeltner New User
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    I do several vocabulary activities throughout the week.  I introduce the words on Mondays.  First, I ask them if they have heard the words before and if they know the meaning.  Typically, my second graders give me a meaning using a derivative of the vocabulary words.  I tell them that I know they "know" the words but we need to learn how to explain the meaning using other words.  I  use a tree map (Thinking Map) as an organizer.  After reading two sentences using the words, we figure out the meaning of the words using their own words.  Then we look up the meaning in the glossary and write that.  Then we come up with a sentence and a picture that will remind them of the word.  On Tuesday, we use a circle map (thinking map) divided into 3 or 4 parts.  We come up with synonyms, antonyms, and words adding prefix and suffixes.  On Wednesday, we have a fill-in the blanks worksheet.  On Thursday, we explore examples of instances when these words might be used or play a jeopardy game at the end of the unit using all the words.  They are also prasied when they use the words in their daily conversations. 

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    ayokoyama New User
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    I teach eighth grade science and have had great success with Marzano's Six Step Process for Academic Vocabulary.  http://innovativocab.wikispaces.com/file/view/MarzVocabiGami.pdf


    Good luck!

  • Re: Vocabulary Development
    choltzman New User
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    As a middle school LA teacher we focus on academic vocabulary.  Words are introduced on Monday from a different content area and quizzed on Friday. Students have been given a variety of graphic organizers as study strategies through each week to include dictionary definitions, pictures, context clues, sentences, synonym/antonym, "my own definition", etc.  They have created a "word web" GO, created puzzles, acrostic poetry, drawn comic strips using the words, paragraphs using multiple words.  The students are doing reasonably well with the words, particularly the students who take the time to study outside of class time and at least are not bored with just looking up definitions.  There has be strong encouragement from the various content areas to continue and even word suggestions, matching to curriculum, which makes my life easier because I don't have to hunt up word lists. 

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