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Common Core Vocabulary Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

Building vocabulary is an essential component of the Common Core State Standards. The activities in this lesson will help middle school students master the critical vocabulary specific to their grade levels.

CCSS Vocabulary

If your state has adopted Common Core State Standards, you have been directed to help your middle school students ''acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases.'' But how do students acquire vocabulary? The old methods of handing out word lists at the beginning of the week, asking students to memorize, and then giving a quiz on Friday are ineffective when it comes to really building vocabulary. This lesson offers some alternatives.

The first step is to choose your words. Your school district, school, or department may have a standard set of academic words they require students to learn. Teach the high-usage words first; if you're going to ask students to analyze texts; then they should be familiar with the word ''analyze'' early in the year. Here are some ideas for interesting activities tied to research on how memory works that will bolster vocabulary and help you meet those difficult standards.

Frayer Model

The Frayer Model is a graphic organizer that places the vocabulary word in the middle of a block divided into four quadrants. This approach to vocabulary instruction works well because it gets students to think about words in multiple modes to fit the variety of ways students learn. In the Frayer Model, students fill in each quadrant with specific connects to the vocabulary word. For example, one quadrant will be the definition, but it should be one in the student's own words. One quadrant can be synonyms or antonyms. Another quadrant could be a picture of the vocabulary word, drawn by the student. Verbs will be challenging at first, but don't worry if students draw strange pictures - those will actually create a more lasting memory! The last box could be characteristics of the word or even non-examples. Post finished graphic organizers to form a word wall to serve as a visual reminder of academic vocabulary. This activity can also be done electronically on laptops or tablets, and the resulting graphic organizers could be posted to a class website.

Vocabulary and Memory

One of the problems with the word list on Monday and quiz on Friday approach is that the vocabulary doesn't enter the students' long term memories. Here are some activities built on techniques to improve retention.

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