Vocabulary Strategies in the Classroom

One thing I have always done as a teacher is hone in on academic vocabulary. It is the foundation to the teaching we do.

What I have noticed on campuses is that teachers will use different phrasing to explain the same thing. So, as students move through different grades they will hear different terminology on the same subject. If we all used the same academic vocabulary everyone would be on the same page.

What I wanted to do is give you some strategies you can use in teaching vocabulary.

Vocabulary Fact or Fib

I learned this from another teacher and modify it times.

  • You place the students into pairs
  • Give each student two squares of paper. Just tear a sheet of paper into squares.
  • Have each student write fact or fib on the sheet of paper.
  • Then read a definition aloud or put on the smart board. For instance Benchmark fractions: Fractions that are easy to round to and add and subtract with
  • Tell the students to think about the definition you read.
  • Then tell the students get ready to decide if it is fact or fib.
  • Then tell the students to place their cards on the table, either it is a fact or fib.
  • Then have them justify their answer with their partner.
  • Then tell them the answer. In this case it is true.

Flyswatter Vocabulary

This is something I learned in science training class but can be used for any subject.

  • Divide the class in half
  • Give one person from each team a flyswatter
  • Have the vocabulary words on the wall somewhere in the classroom
  • Begin reading the definition
  • The first student to hit the correct word with the flyswatter gets a point for their team
  • The team who hits the correct word gets a point for their team.
  • Keep going until all the vocabulary words have been hit.

Vocabulary Memory

I am sure we all have played this in some sort or fashion at some time.

  • Make up cards with vocabulary word on one side and the definition on a separate card.
  • Place them all face down.
  • Break the students up into pairs.
  • One student will pick two cards, if the vocabulary word matches the definition they get to keep that set of cards.
  • Who ever has the most cards at the end wins

This would make great stations.

Vocabulary Test

I am sure this done a lot of different ways. However I will share with you how I do it.

I just create a test out of vocabulary words. It looks like this

Vocabulary Test

Then I will create test cards for the students. It would look like this.

Vocabulary cards for students

I have the test projected up on the smart board or use an elmo. Then they have to match the number with the letter. It is very easy to grade. I can usually have them turn it in and by the end of that class return their test to them with a grade.

ABC Vocabulary Project

This is something a administrator taught me when I was teaching fifth grade. I taught five different subjects and used it in all of them.

This can be broken up into six or even nine week projects!!!!

  1. First thing you need to do is make a list of all the vocabulary words you know you want them to understand for the year. I know it sounds like a lot of work but once you have it then you have a nine week project they can work on.

2. After you have your list you break them up according to ABC. For instance!

  • A: Addition properties (commutative, associative, identity)- 12pts ___
  • B: Bar graphs ( line, pictograph)- 12 pts ___
  • C: Common factors and denominators ( LCD, GCF)- 8 pts ___
  • C: Coordinates- 2 pts ___
  • D: Division Rules for 2,3,4,5,6,8,9, or 10- 32 pts ___
  • D: Division Terms: dividend, divisor- 8 pts ___
  • E: Even and Odd Numbers- 8 pts ___
  • E: Exponents- 4pts ___
  • E: Equivalent- 4pts ___
  • F: Factors ( prime and composite) -8pts ___
  • F: Figures ( face, edge, vertex)-12pts __
  • G: Geometry ( uni-, bi-, tri-, quad-, hex-, hept-, oct-, non-, deca-, trapezoid, parallelogram, rhombus)-48pts

One thing to notice is I have assigned points to each one. This allows me to grade quickly and create a rubric.

3. Then have them create a Cover Page. I have gotten some very creative covers.

4. Then the need to create a table of contents as well.

5. And this is how they complete the ABC Vocabulary project.

  • Each page should include
  • the letter in large print,
  • the term written and defined,
  • an example of the term in use which can include an algorithm and/or an illustration,
  • neat, and the sources used should be correctly labeled at the bottom of the page.

6. Then I create a rubric for easy grading

  • First nine week project Grading Rubric for: ___________________
  • A- G: Each page should include the letter in large print, the term written and defined, an example of the term, neat, and the sources used at the bottom. ___
  • A: Addition properties (commutative, associative, identity)- 12pts ___
  • B: Bar graphs ( line, picto, )- 12 pts ___
  • C: Common factors and denominators ( LCD, GCF)- 8 pts ___
  • C: Coordinates- 2 pts ___
  • D: Division Rules for 2,3,4,5,6,8,9, or 10- 32 pts

I created a resource like this for fifth grade math.

Will their you have it, five different vocabulary strategies you can use in the classroom.

Here are two resources I created centered around vocabulary

5th grade math project
6th grade math vocabulary

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