It is important for students of all ages to learn new words. There is a strong correlation between vocabulary and test performance. Popular wisdom for learning new words includes using definition dictionaries, creating flashcards, and memorizing. However, new research in education has shown that learning vocabulary doesn't have to be boring (in fact, students learn new words faster and more deeply if the process is fun). If you let students choose which words to learn and have them represent them in various ways (including pictures), they will learn new vocabulary in no time.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing Words for Vocabulary
Step 1. Have students choose words from an assigned book
Ask the students to make a list of the words they don't know and bring it to class at the end of the week.
With this technique, they won't know what words to look for ahead of time. However, it is a more efficient technique, since you can decide which words to focus on depending on their vocabularies
Step 2. Select words from a book assigned on your own
If you are asking them to read a specific book, go over each chapter before assigning it and select the words you think the students don't know.
- If you are in doubt about what words they don't know, check out the list of common standards. It will include the words that students should learn at each level.
- This method works best if you want to get students to use their knowledge of important words to the maximum. However, it is probably not the most efficient technique because they may know the words you have chosen or they may not know the ones you thought they did.
Step 3. Make a main list of all the words
Go through each student's list (or the one you wrote) and combine the words into a main list.
- Include three columns in the list: “yes” for words they know, “no” for words they don't know, and “maybe” for words students are not sure they know.
- Make copies of the list for each student in the class.
Step 4. Have them complete the worksheet
Ask them to write an x next to each word in the "yes", "no" or "maybe" columns. This will give you an idea of which words they have the most trouble with as a group.
For example, if all students put an X next to “suspicious” in the “no” column (and they should learn it at their level or soon), you know that you should focus on teaching them that word
Step 5. Classify the words that they have marked the most
Divide a paper into three columns, and write "basic", "high frequency" and "specialized" at the top of each one respectively. Review the most marked words in the “no” and “maybe” column of the worksheet, and rank them in one of the three columns.
- The words "basic" are words that are commonly known as "door" (door), "shoe" (shoe) and "television" (television).
- “High frequency” words are words that are used in various areas and it is important for students to know them in order to have an intelligent conversation. For example, “analysis”, “significant” and “articulate” are high frequency words.
- "Specialty" words are lower frequency words that are limited to specific areas. For example, "isomer" (isomer), "cumulus" (cluster) and "entomology" (etymology) are examples of specialized words.
Step 6. Select the words in the column “high frequency”
By this point, you should have narrowed the list down a bit. The “high frequency” words are the ones you should focus on in vocabulary class, as they represent the most important words for students to learn.
If you have eleven words or more at this point, use your discretion and reduce them to ten. Everything will be fine, since all the words on the sheet will be important to the students
Part 2 of 3: Letting Students Brainstorm
Step 1. Give them contextual ideas
Use each vocabulary word in a sentence that gives them some contextual idea of what it means. Contextual ideas are words and phrases that are used in conjunction with an unknown word to indicate its meaning.
- For example, if the word is “succinct,” you can use it in “Julia gave a succinct presentation and the meeting was over in no time” (Julia gave a summary presentation, so the meeting ended in no time).
- Remember that contextual ideas can be confusing. For example, the sentence "as he rushed out the door, Bob felt reluctant to meet his friend" could imply that "reluctant" means that Bob was in a hurry to meet his friend. see your friends because you were excited or in a hurry because you were nervous and worried.
Step 2. Let them guess the meanings of the words
With the context you provide, let them share their ideas about the meaning of each word. Allowing them to brainstorm will make their neurons work. This will also prepare them to remember the meaning later.
Step 3. Explain the word to them
Once they have had a chance to think of the word on their own, tell them what it means. You can read the definition in the dictionary to them. However, it is more important to introduce the word to them in a way that they can connect with it.
Use the students' experiences to explain the word to them. For example, if the word is “hodgepodge”, show them a box of different colored markers and say “this is a hodgepodge of markers. A hodgepodge is a confusing mix of different things all thrown together”
Step 4. Use a picture to bring the word to life
Students learn words faster if they can match them to pictures. Come up with different ways to represent a word with a picture.
- For example, if the word is "interstellar" (interstellar), tell them about the vast space between the stars and explain that "interstellar" is the word to define that space.
- If it's a more abstract word, like “repercussions,” show them a picture of children who were sent to their rooms without dinner or pictures of people in jail.
Part 3 of 3: Help them memorize
Step 1. Have them repeat the definition in their own words
Students learn a word faster and more deeply if they understand it on their own terms. Ask them to raise a hand and give you their own definitions.
For example, if the word is “concept” and you define it as “an abstract idea,” students will probably be able to come up with definitions of “concept” on their own with a correct general meaning. If they are far from your definition (for example, if a student says it means “something I build”), correct them. For example, you can tell them "actually, concept means more the idea of what you want to build in your mind before actually doing it."
Step 2. Ask them to describe the word with a picture
Pictures help students associate words with their meanings. Get them to think about how to draw the concept of the word you are teaching them.
- For example, if the word is “enthusiastic”, you can ask them to draw a person with an expression of enthusiasm.
- If it's a more abstract word, like “intention,” explain what it means and have them draw whatever comes to mind. Even if it is just an arrow pointing down, this will reinforce the true meaning of the word.
Step 3. Relate the new word to others
Ask students to think of synonyms and antonyms. This will help you put the word in a more general context.
You can also make them think of words that sound similar or use it in a song
Step 4. Have them create metaphors or analogies for the word
This will make students think a lot about the deeper meaning of the word and how it is related to things in the real world.
- For example, if the word is “migraine”, you can ask them what a migraine feels like. If a student says, "Migraine is like a pounding in the head," they are on the right track!
- Be careful when using this method because sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a creative metaphor and word confusion. For example, if the word is “antidote” (antidote) and someone says “antidote is like drinking a sip of cold water,” make sure students know the difference between an “antidote” and a sip of cold water.
Step 5. Talk about the word in groups
Divide the students into groups and have them give examples of the word in different sentences. This will get your creative minds working.
Walk around their seats to supervise them, as some may drift out of the way and others may use the word incorrectly. If you notice someone misusing the word, create a correct sentence with it and ask them to rephrase it for you. For example, if the word is “erratically”, you can use the sentence “the driver was distracted and drove erratically down the road” and the student can tell you "There were lots of potholes so the bus drove erratically this morning."
Step 6. Have them read texts where these new words are found
Students will need to see them frequently if they have to memorize them and incorporate them into their regular vocabulary. They learn new vocabulary best if they are in various contexts.
Give them readings where they can find the new words. You can ask them to read a book, newspaper article, website, or any other print source. The key is to get used to seeing new words in everyday contexts
Step 7. Incorporate the words into your own vocabulary
If you use the new words on a regular basis, the students will get used to hearing them, so it will become absolutely and quickly natural.
For example, if one of the vocabulary words is “substantial”, try using it to describe things throughout the school day. You can say “we had a substantial amount of snow today” or “learning how to divide is a substantial achievement”
Step 8. Make there a lot of pictures inside the classroom
Put up posters with the vocabulary words, create a “word wall” with each week's new words along with their definitions, and above all, keep a well-stocked library with books containing the words you want students to learn..