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December 8, 2016

Wonderful Words: Ideas for Building Vocabulary

Written By: Brandi Jordan
Wonderful Words: Ideas for Building Vocabulary -

Wonderful Words: Ideas for Building Vocabulary

Teaching vocabulary strategies is one of the toughest jobs that teachers have. While it is critical that students expand both their reading and speaking vocabularies, it is not always an easy process. We asked some Really Good Teachers to share their vocabulary building strategies with us and there was no shortage of great ideas.

Mastering Vocabulary

Let Students Play Their Way to Sight Word Mastery

In Roxane’s Somerville, MA kindergarten class, the pressure to master sight words starts early. Here’s how she helps her students. “In our school system, kindergartners are expected to learn 20 sight words by the end of the year. To individualize this learning process as much as possible, I offer each child a set of cards printed with the words,” Roxane explains. “I have each student initial the flip side of each card in his or her set. Every morning, students each find a partner so they can play Sight Word Concentration. Partners place their two sets of cards face down and then take turns selecting two cards at a time to turn over. If the words match they use the word in a sentence, and keep the two cards. Play continues until all word cards have been matched up.

Tip: At first, have students each play with six words cards (twelve cards total), then gradually increase the number of word cards in play until players are using all 20 word cards and 40 word cards total.”

Take the Guesswork out of Vocabulary Development

“Here’s a vocabulary activity that’s proven to be successful in my classroom,” shares 3rd Grade Teacher, Maria, from Stow, OH. “First I use a marker to divide a piece of poster board in half vertically. I title the left half of the board ‘Unknown,’ and the right half ‘Known.’ I then tell my students that when they are reading any text (science, social studies, reading, etc.) and they come upon a word they do not know, they should write the word on a sticky note, and adhere it to the ‘Unknown’ side of the board. Then any student may remove that note, write the definition on the note and place it on the ‘Known’ side. Anytime a student posts a word or a definition, he or she earns a sticker. When a child has earned a predetermined number of stickers, he or she is awarded a ‘free homework pass.’ At the end of the week we review the words and make any necessary adjustments to the definitions.”

Try this “Out of Sight” Sight Word Activity

Judy’s 1st Grade students in Kohler, WI, learn their vocabulary and their classmates all at the same time! “Every Monday I introduce our new sight words for the week. Before the students arrive, I write a paragraph about one of the students on the board. The paragraph includes some blank lines similar to those lines used in the game of Hangman (one for each letter in a word) to indicate the spellings of some missing words,” she explains. “I provide students with a paper numbered and lined to match the number and lines featured in the missing words. We read the story together and then students help guess the missing words. Over time, as they learn to count the number of letters in each word and read the sentences carefully, my students are pleased to realize they’ve become better and better at guessing and spelling each missing word. As an extension activity I have students each work with a partner to alphabetize the sight words on the same sheets of paper they used to list the words.”

Wonderful Words: Ideas for Building Vocabulary -

What are some strategies that you use with your students to help build vocabulary?

Leave a comment below or on the forums and let us know! We’d love to hear your ideas!

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