Inspiring Effective Vocabulary Learning

Effective vocabulary learning includes giving students many ways to interact with vocabulary words on an ongoing basis. The more interaction students have with new words, the more likely they are to actually add these words to their verbal lexicons.

Here are some fun and engaging ideas to help students have more interaction with new words in the classroom.

Vocabulary Bluff

For the game, Bluff, students are divided into teams of 4.

Each group member gets 1 new vocabulary word. Each student looks up the dictionary definition of their word and writes the real definition on their card. The students then work together to come up with three false definitions for each word that could seem plausible.

Student groups chose one word to feature to the class. Members take turns reading their definitions to the rest of the class. Students in the other teams must identify who has the real definition card and are not “bluffing.”

Points are awarded to the team that identifies the correct definition. 

a group of words on small tags
Effective Vocabulary Learning Uses Multiple Opportunities to Interact with New Words

Developing a Class Thesaurus or Vocabulary Dictionary

As new words and synonyms are learned during the school year, add them to the class Thesaurus. Students can use the book to expand their writing as well as their reading activities. Students in content classrooms can make unique dictionaries that fit the content area like a “Biology Dictionary” or a “Civil War Dictionary.”

Mystery Vocabulary Words

Entice students with a daily “mystery word” of the day.

Choose 30-40 special vocabulary words that you want students to know. Write the words and their definitions on 3×5 cards. Give students a series of clues to “guess” the identity of the mystery word of the day.

Review the words every now and then by shuffling the vocabulary deck and playing “vocabulary trivia.”

Divide the class into smaller groups of 5-6 students in each group. Sequentially go around the groups and ask students to identify either the definition or the word being defined from the top of the deck.

Students consult one another in their group and provide either the word being defined or a definition of a word. Each group who correctly guesses the word gets a point. If the group cannot identify the word or definition, the next group in the sequence gets a chance to identify the word or definition.

The group with the most points at the end of play is the “winner” of the vocabulary learning trivia game.

Facebook or Instagram Word Ad

Have students identify a specific word that they would like to use for their new “ad.” Using a tool like the free version of Canva, ask students to create an “ad” that could be posted on social media to help others understand the meaning of their word. Students can use words or pictures or even a scene to explain the meaning of their word. After the ads are created, students share them with others in the class.

Changing up Passages With More Interesting with New Words

Give the class a small passage that is missing words similar to a “Madlib” passage. Ask each student to complete the passage with words that they think will make the passage more interesting or descriptive to read.

After each student has completed filling in words for the missing parts of the text, the students read the passage aloud to see who has created the most interesting and descriptive passage. Words must make sense in the context of the passage and must be “G” rated. This is a fun activity that can help students reflect on both passage meaning as well as more interesting vocabulary.

Learn more effective vocabulary learning strategies in Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading.

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