Vocabulary instruction is a rewarding and difficult task for teachers at all levels. There are several ways to teach vocabulary. Since students all learn at different rate and levels, multiple strategies are needed to appeal to students. It is important not to rule out strategies because what works for an ELL student may be beneficial for an honors student. The words both sets of students are studying may be different, but the mental process may be very similar.
I often have students make mind-body connections while studying vocabulary. I even encourage students to do the same outside of school when they encounter words they don’t know. As we are in the final preparations for our state testing cycle, we are reinforcing academic vocabulary with our students and having them form body pictures with the word in mind. The idea is that the pose they create will help them remember the word when they encounter it in the future in a text or on the test.
Another strategy I love to use during the warmer seasons is the vocabulary walk. I’m sure I have blogged about this in the past, but it is a fun strategy that helps to break the doldrums of the classroom setting. Recently, I practiced this strategy in my classroom. I had students split into groups of three. Each group was given an envelope. The envelope contained several words, some vocabulary and some adjectives and verbs. As a class, we exited the building and headed outdoors. Each group spread out and one person was selected to take a single word out of the envelope. Each member of the group had 30 seconds to come up with a sentence for the word as the entire group walked together. I gave a signal (this could be a whistle) for groups to stop and a different person in the group was charged with pulling out another word from the envelope. Each member in the group had about 30 seconds to come up with a sentence using both words. This activity continued until all words were used. As more words were pulled from the envelope more time was needed to construct the sentences.
Once we headed back into the classroom, each group was given the chance to share what it thought was the group’s best sentence. This activity uses repetition and movement as a way to reinforce vocabulary concepts.