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Techniques for Teaching Vocabulary

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  • 0:01 Teaching Vocabulary
  • 0:49 Formal Study
  • 1:36 Examples for Formal Study
  • 2:41 Context in Reading
  • 3:22 Other Methods
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

One of the biggest things that teachers strive to teach from early years through college is vocabulary. This lesson focuses on ways of teaching vocabulary, especially for younger students.

Teaching Vocabulary

One of the central goals of early elementary education is helping students expand their vocabularies. Beyond the obvious communicative benefits, an increased vocabulary has been proven to improve outcomes on everything from reading comprehension to second language acquisition. Building good vocabulary habits from an early age is a good way of making sure that students succeed in the long run. However, how are we to do this without resorting to the dated practice of writing and rewriting definitions ad nauseam? In this lesson, we'll demonstrate how to effectively work on building vocabularies both in and out of the classroom, through use not only of formal vocabulary work but also in building the ability to deduce the meaning of words from context.

Formal Study

To be clear, by formal study I don't mean dusty old libraries and academic gowns. I instead mean the act of being in your classroom learning vocabulary. In the past, students may have simply written and rewritten definitions until they sunk in. However, such rote memorization was far from engaging. Instead, more interactive ways of teaching vocabulary offer better outcomes.

Additionally, in the past, numerous words would be introduced, overwhelming learners. While there's no doubt that a high school student can handle 20 SAT words in a given week, or that a foreign language graduate student could be expected to learn that many in a night, we're targeting much younger students. As a result, 5-10 words a week is plenty to ensure mastery.

Examples for Formal Study

Incorporating the vocabulary of the week into other aspects of the classroom is a great way of increasing proficiency. Many teachers use games that incorporate newly learned words in order to present the material in a more interactive manner. Such techniques can not only be used to teach words during their assigned week, but also as review exercises. Bingo games could be made where each word is listed in a random order on the board, but only definitions are read out. Students have to identify when their words have been defined in order to complete the game. At the same time, the random nature of Bingo levels the playing field amongst students with different abilities.

Classroom time does not need to be sacrificed, however, for vocabulary to be reinforced. Many teachers have found success in using a word wall to constantly remind students of the words of that given week. Posted with definitions, it's an ever-present reminder for wandering eyes of the vocabulary of the week. At the end of the unit, the words can migrate to another wall to join other words that have been studied that year, reinforcing a feeling of accomplishment.

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