Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ideas for teaching and reviewing vocabulary

I recently shared these ideas with my colleagues at Meliksah University. I hope you enjoy them!

“Don’t S.W.E.A.T. it” Vocabulary Homework

Rationale: Learners will build layers of knowledge about new vocabulary words by learning the word along with a synonym, antonym, example, and translation to their native language.

Procedure: The teacher can create simple worksheets with the following table repeated several times. Alternatively, the teacher can show learners how to recreate this table on their own paper. Assign learners a list of vocabulary words that are relevant to the current chapter or study topic AND to the learners’ general academic pursuits (if possible). Explain your expectations for filling in the table. Don’t forget to explain the English idiom “Don’t sweat it!” (i.e., Don’t worry, it won’t be difficult).



Example sentence:


Three low-to-no-prep ways to review vocabulary in class

Rationale: learners have preferences for ways in which they learn most easily. Teacher variation is the ways vocabulary is presented can engage a wider range of students. In classes where the demands of the pacing limit time for vocabulary review, a simple definition quiz can help learners self-assess their knowledge. The following exercises can provide varied and time-saving ways to reinforce the importance of vocabulary in your classroom.


·      Make it visual. Assign pairs of students to draw a picture representing a vocabulary word. Have students share their representations with the class, and hang pictures on the wall, if desired.
o   For the word comfortable, students might draw a sofa or large armchair.
·      Make it active. Assign pairs of students to create a gesture or action representing a vocabulary word. Encourage students to get creative! Have students share their representations with the class.
o   For the word “packet,” students might imitate ripping open a bag of chips. They might also add the ripping sound to help auditory learners connect the sound and the meaning.
·      Make it quick. Have students take out paper and pencil. Read definitions of 5 words and have students write the correct word on their paper. Read the answers and have students self-correct.

o   The teacher might say, “This word means the person who works with a cash register in a store.” Students would write “Cashier” or “Shop Assistant”

Some activities inspired by Cheryl Zimmerman's Word Knowledge (2009). Check out her book for much more info on the whys and hows of vocabulary instruction, as well as many activities for bringing vocabulary to your classroom.