How to Teach Vocabulary Words

Instructor: Marquis Grant
Without a rich vocabulary, students have little foundation to understand what they are reading. This lesson will highlight vocabulary strategies that can be used to develop student vocabulary skills in elementary, middle and high school.

Introduction: Teaching Vocabulary Words

When you take up the task of teaching vocabulary, it should be done explicitly if students are to benefit from word study as it relates to subject matter. There should not be an assumption that students come to us knowing word meanings and usage because, to be quite honest, this may not be the case. They will need a foundation for words in order to be successful in the classroom.

Vocabulary exposure should be scaffolded. Consider limiting vocabulary study to no more than five words per week, which will result in 25 words per month. By focusing on a small group of words each week, teachers will be able to explicitly teach word meaning and word usage in context rather than overwhelming students with a slew of words that they will never fully understand.

Let's look at some different ways vocabulary can be taught, including word walls, word maps, flashcards and vocabulary bingo.

Word Wall

A word wall is a great resource for teaching and reteaching vocabulary concepts
Word Wall

A word wall is a group of words that can range from simple words taped to any wall of the classroom to more elaborate, alphabetized systems where words are color-coded. How a word wall is displayed is generally up to the teacher, but they can be organized in a number of ways, such as:

  • Alphabetically
  • Based on a theme or unit
  • According to parts of speech (i.e. noun, verb)

For example, a parts of speech word wall may have a noun section with the word 'nouns' printed on a piece of card-stock. Under the nouns section could be words like girl, school, house, and car. The verb section may include words like run, jump, think and breathe. Theme-based ideas, like a popcorn word wall where the words are on cards shaped like pieces of popcorn or individual word walls for each student (elementary-level), are creative ways to get students interested in learning vocabulary.

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