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How to Teach English Vocabulary

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Teaching vocabulary is a very important part of English language arts education. This lesson will provide you with tips and activities you can use to make learning vocabulary interesting and FUN.

Teaching Vocabulary

A vocabulary is any body of words someone knows and uses to express themselves in a language. Learning vocabulary is an important part of English language arts or second language classes. Regardless of the type of class you are teaching, it is important that your students learn and practice new vocabulary as often as possible.

This lesson will look at a fourth grade teacher and how he teaches new vocabulary to his students. The activities and lessons detailed here can be adjusted or modified to suit a wide variety of student populations.

Vocabulary Activities

Mr. Smith is a fourth grade language arts teacher. In his teaching role, he is responsible for introducing students to new vocabulary words every week. Mr. Smith uses a variety of lessons and activities to help his students learn and practice these new vocabulary words. Many of these are designed to make vocabulary learning more exciting, as simply memorizing new words is very boring.

The first thing Mr. Smith does each week is introduce his students to their new vocabulary words by writing the words on the whiteboard and asking the students to read them aloud together. This gives the students practice speaking the words aloud and pronouncing them correctly. Knowing how to say new vocabulary words is just as important as knowing how to use them in a sentence.

After they finish reading the words aloud, Mr. Smith asks his students to copy the words into their vocabulary journal. This is a small notebook in which students complete many vocabulary activities and acts as a mini-dictionary of all of the words they have learned so far. Once students have copied the words, they spend some quiet time finding the definition in a dictionary and copying it down.

By using a vocabulary journal, Mr. Smith gives his students an easy place to find and study each new set of words they learn. A great source of information, this student-created notebook will be filled by the end of the year with all of the words they studied. The journal can be used with any age group, but younger students might need to paste in vocabulary and definitions instead of finding and writing them independently.

Once his students complete their initial entry for the new vocabulary words, Mr. Smith begins using the words in sentences as much as possible during his teaching. This is important to help students see various contexts for these words. At the beginning of the year, Mr. Smith told his students that whenever they hear one of their vocabulary words used in the classroom, they should raise their hand. Mr. Smith then calls on a student to give the definition of the word. If answered correctly, the student can add a sticker to the class vocabulary chart. Once the vocabulary chart is full of stickers, the class gets a prize.

To help his students practice using the vocabulary more explicitly, Mr. Smith assigns daily sentence writing exercises in their journals. This activity takes less than 7-8 minutes and gives students plenty of opportunities to memorize the definition of the words and to use them in sentences.

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