I was driving home on a recent Sunday and listening to my favorite Cleveland Browns on the radio.
Now I’ve been watching football and photographing high school football for a lot of years. I don’t know the names of each offensive formation, but when I see the formation, I can anticipate the play and the photo.
And herein lies my problem.
The vocabulary of football are the names of each of those formations. When the radio announcer tells me the Browns are in the “I Formation,” I have no idea what that looks like.
No matter how many times my husband tries to explain it to me, it just doesn’t stick.
I am definitely football vocabulary challenged!!
Do your Students Struggle with Vocabulary?
You know your students must master vocabulary to comprehend content text and conversation.
You know that consistent exposure to vocabulary improves your students’ mastery.
And you know that using a variety of approaches addresses your students’ multiple learning styles while minimizing drill and kill drudgery.
That’s why I created a mix of Vocabulary Activities for my students.
Here are 7 of my favorite.
1) Paper Flash Cards
The first activity for any topic I teach is to have students learn the key vocabulary terms.
My students make flashcards from 3 x 5 index cards.
I project the vocabulary terms on the board and students write each term on a separate index card.
Students comb through our text for the definitions which they write on the reverse side of each card.
Since we used binders for organization, students hole punched their flash cards and attached them to the center binder ring with a book ring.
Students easily use their flash cards at any time to quiz themselves. I encourage (and test) students to know the definition given the term and vice versa.
One of the bonuses of paper flash cards is that students can create two piles of flash cards – the pile they know and the pile they’re still learning. They can see the “I know it!” pile grow during the unit and focus effort on the terms they’re still mastering.
2) Digital Flash Cards
When my daughter was in grade school, she benefited from making digital PPT flash cards.
She typed the vocabulary term on one slide and the definition on the next slide. She easily toggled back and forth to quiz herself and she could move slides to the bottom of the document as she mastered them.
Digital flash cards have definitely become a bit more flashy in recent years. My school unfortunately was not 1:1 so I was unable to harness the power and fun of digital platforms.
However, if you have access to technology here are the most popular sites to check out.
Most have free offerings and offer various individual and game modes.
3) Presentation/Word Wall Slides
The day after my students created their vocabulary flash cards, I went through each term using PPT slides I created.
It was of utmost importance to me that my students “see” these abstract vocabulary terms. So I searched and searched for photos and graphics to provide that important visual support to my students.
Lucky for you, I’ve shared those in my Looking to the Past Vocabulary Resources.
And it’s so easy to post PPTs (or Google Slides) to Google Classroom or to print slides for your Word Wall.
4) Speak the Vocabulary – Constantly!!
Vocabulary is the short hand of any subject.
The whole purpose of learning vocabulary is to use it and to understand it appropriately in writing and conversation.
No game or fun vocabulary activity is going to enhance student mastery if you’re not using vocabulary ALL THE TIME during class.
And even more importantly, your students need to use vocabulary terms whenever they’re asking a question or offering a comment.
Every time your students hear a vocabulary word in context, they score one more opportunity for mastery.
5) Reading Informational Text
Whatever text you use should be rich with the vocabulary terms you’re teaching.
As students read, quiz them on the terms and relate them to other terms they know. Once again, every time your students hear a vocabulary word in context, they get one more opportunity for mastery.
My textbook was 50 miles wide and 1/4″ deep. So I ultimately wrote my own Informational Text Passages rich with key vocabulary.
6) Task Cards
I use task cards as combination flash cards and mini presentation slides. Each vocabulary term is comprised of three cards – one card with the vocabulary term, a second card with the definition, and a third card with the same photo I used for my Presentation/Word Wall Slides.
The manageability of task cards makes them super flexible and great for bellringer warmups or end of the class quickie time fillers.
I always have a couple of sets of current task cards handy for a quicky activity when we have extra time or for early finishers.
Here are a bunch of options for you when you use task cards:
- Anticipatory Set – Have students match each vocabulary term with its definition and photo as a unit introduction. Repeat at the end of the unit so students can demonstrate growth and mastery.
- Stations – Match each vocabulary term with its definition and photo as a review or anticipatory set.
- Whole Class Match – Provide each student with one card and instruct them to move around the classroom to find their partner cards.
- Memory – Use any combination of the task cards to play Memory.
- Early Finishers – Put adhesive magnets on the back of each card. Place the cards in random order on a magnetic board and have students rearrange cards to match each vocabulary term with its definition and photo.
- Go Fish – Mix up the cards and deal each student 6 cards. Take turns drawing cards with the object of collecting a matched set of vocabulary term, definition, and photo.
- Form a Group – Higher Level Thinking – Provide each student with a different vocabulary or photograph card. Have them work together to form groups based on some common feature of the vocabulary terms. Have each group explain their reasoning. For example, riverbed, source, mouth, levee, Huang He, and Chang Jiang may group together to form the “Rivers of China” group.
7) Hexagonal Thinking
Hexagonal Thinking is one of my favorite activities. It’s probably one of the best opportunities for students to elevate their thinking to make connections.
This video explains how hexagonal thinking can be implemented.
Why do I love Vocabulary Activities?
FLEXIBLE – Vocabulary Activities are easily planned into a lesson as bell work or for learning stations. But just as often, I pull vocabulary activities out for a small group review or for an intervention specialist to use with students. And when I have an Early Finisher or extra time at the end of class, Vocabulary Activities are among my Grab and Go options.
PRINT AND DIGITAL ACTIVITIES COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER – I think it’s important to have a variety of print and digital options for maximum flexibility. Some activities are just better implemented in print! And when the internet is down or logging into a digital platform eats up precious minutes at the end of class, I’m not stuck.
Where can I find Vocabulary Activities?
My Looking to the Past Vocabulary Resources include 5 different activities:
- Hexagonal Thinking Puzzle
- Task Cards
- Crossword Puzzle
- I Have, Who Has
- Presentation/Word Wall Slides
Click HERE for a complete look at my Ancient History Vocabulary Activities.
Add them to your teacher toolbox today!!