Teaching Vocabulary Words
- You should focus on terms that have a high probability of increasing student understanding of topics and enhancing academic success
- Topics should come from the Academic Standard
- Effective vocabulary instruction does not rely on definitions
- Having a common “correct” definition is important, but it should not come first and should be built upon
- Effective vocabulary instruction involves the gradual shaping of the word meanings through multiple exposures
- Students must demonstrate their knowledge of words in linguistic and nonlinguistic ways
- Teaching word parts enhances students’ understanding of terms
- Use different words with common prefixes, suffixes, and root words
- Different types of words require different types of instruction
- Students should discuss the terms they are learning
- Practice with the terms in multiple ways and gradually introduce them into readings and discussions so that students can see and hear them repeatedly
1. Introduce an explanation, example, and definition of a word
- Try to create a common language
- Access the students’ prior knowledge of the word and look for ways to help students make connections and create a picture in the mind
- Try not to give a glossary or dictionary definition in the beginning
- Make sure students do not create a definition that is contrary to the actually definition
2. AFTER students have an idea of what the words means, introduce the definition you want them to remember
- They can combine it with their own examples
3. Ask students to restate a description and give an example of the new vocabulary term in their own words
- Make sure the “correct” definition is incorporated, but the goal is not to simply memorize it
4. Vocabulary words should be put on a word wall as they are introduced, so students do not become overwhelmed
5. Vocabulary instruction should be an integral part of instruction, not a separate piece
- Remember to use the vocabulary words you are teaching in class discussions and assignments in various ways, i.e.:
i. “Who remembers what ‘endangered’ means?”
ii. “Zoos often bred ‘endangered’ animals because…”
iii. “Who can name an example of an ‘endangered’ animal?”
iv. “What are some examples of humans causing species to become ‘endangered?’”
6. Ask students to create a visual representation of the word
7. Engage students in review of the new terms, add to existing terms, highlight relationships between terms
- Highlight prefixes and suffixes
- Identify synonyms and/or antonyms
- Draw additional pictures
- Review common confusions
- Be sure to use terms in conversations
9. Use games to help them learn words and use them repeatedly
*These are general guidelines and should be adjusted based on student age and starting abilities
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