Say hi to our wonderful guest blogger, Alicia Christian, aka The Elementary Professor!
Vocabulary practice is something teachers are always trying to increase. Now, with more reading in the content areas, it has become critically important for students to have a well-developed vocabulary to both understand a subject and to increase fluency while reading about it.
But what can we do to give students repeated experiences with words so they can truly internalize them? Students need to read and reread words, use them in various circumstances, and have multiple encounters with words in order to truly make those words part of the students’ internal lexicon. Don’t break out the dictionaries and start writing definitions yet! To get you started on this quest, we have a few simple games and activities. Most of these can be played in a few minutes, making great sponge activities, and they also require little or no prep!
Timed Group Sort
This quick group game is a great way for students to grow familiarity with the basics of a set of words for any subject. Each group gets a set of words (index cards are fine). Tell the class before the round how they will be sorting the words (part of speech, amount of syllables, etc…) When you say go, the first group to get them sorted correctly wins. Instruct everyone ahead of time to finish, even if other groups are done, because the first group won’t win if they’re not done correctly. This example is sorted by person/place/thing, but you can vary however you like. Sort the same set multiple ways. You can even have students come up with ways to sort them.
This one helps students both remember meanings of words and make connections with words, strengthening schema and familiarity. Give the whole class one vocabulary word from your content topic. They have 30 seconds to make a group list of related words. The group with the most words (they can defend relation to) at the end of 30 seconds wins. Repeat with another vocabulary word. Regular blank copy paper works fine for these. This can be done with one word from your list as a quick time filler or with the whole list during designated vocabulary practice time.
This is a great activity to use when introducing new words. This can be done orally, or have students do it on paper. You can have them do it alone, in partners or groups, or as a class. Doing this orally as a class for review is a great sponge. Just pick one person to roll the dice. Call a student or group to answer it for a word. Then repeat until you are out of time. Give each group a number cube and put a list on the board of what each number represents. Some options are: 1 = tell what it means, 2 = use it in a sentence, 3 = give a synonym, 4 = give an antonym, 5 = draw it, 6 = act it out. You could make one of the numbers free choice. Also put the list of vocab words up or give each group a stack of index cards with a word on each card. The first person in the group rolls a die, takes the top word card or the top word on the list, and acts accordingly. When the group is satisfied the challenge has been met, it moves to the next person. They roll the dice and take the next card or the next word on the list, etc…
This is a great way to practice words that have been recently learned. This type of game also makes great centers or an option of something students can do when they finish work early. It’s easy to create a game using index cards and vocabulary words. Put the words each on a card, and their definitions each on a separate card. Students can play in pairs or small groups by turning over two cards to try to match the word to the definition. If they get a match, they keep the pair and get a second turn. If they don’t get a match, they turn the card back over, and it’s the next person’s turn. You can make these to suit your needs or purchase games like this Earth Science game:
Or this chemistry vocab game:
Say It with Your Body
This one is great to break up monotony and allow movement. It works especially well shortly after introducing new words or as part of introducing them. Assign each group a different word from the list. The group should make a short definition (using appropriate resources) in their own words and create a movement for it. Then each group teaches the rest of the class their definition and and movement. The whole class should practice saying it and doing the movement together. Management note: the short definition should be approved by you before teaching the class. It should also be in a complete sentence so the class practices saying the word and definition together.
Example: Furious means really angry.
The Elementary Professor (A.K.A. Alicia Christian) has an M.S. in Teaching and Curriculum and has been Teacher of the Year and County Elementary Math Teacher of the Year. She is currently writing out ideas and lessons she used in the classroom while taking a break from the school site to raise three young kids. While taking care of business at home, she is staying current in the education world by attending conferences and serving on feedback and development committees for Common Core in both her district and at the national level. You can read more about her ideas on her blog or check out her Teachers Pay Teachers store.