I truly believe that students benefit most from learning fewer words in depth than the surface level of many words. Quality over quantity, my friends!
So, I choose one word per week to directly teach to students on Monday morning. That’s correct, ONLY one word per week. Along with that word comes 5-8 synonyms that we use throughout our conversations each day.
During the week that we are focused on this new vocabulary word its word card is hung up in the front of the classroom. Once we move on to the next word, previous focus words get hung up on our word wall for the rest of the year. Learn more about Word Walls in the Upper Elementary Classroom in this blog post.
When preparing your word wall cards, make sure that the definition and synonyms are written on the back of the card. You will be surprised how many students learn to use this word wall as a resource. They will start to interact with it and remove the cards to review definitions when needed . (This is a GOOD thing! This is how we keep words alive all year). In addition, consider adding a picture clue to each word wall card. This really helps students recall a related word or story without having to look at the definition.
Once I introduce a new word of the week, students complete one activity per day all themed around that same 1 word. Here are the lessons, activities and assessments I have found and created for word learning in my classroom:
Before Teaching: Pre-Assess
- Beginning of the month: Vocabulary Pre-Assessment
- This helps you track which words students really don’t know and those you may need to spend extra time reviewing.
- Great way to track growth across the month and show that your vocabulary lessons are working!
Day 1: Introduce New Vocabulary Word
This activity is done as a whole class, students learn the new word through direct instruction. Together we come up with examples and non-examples of the concept. Lastly, we come up with a catchy/jazzy way to remember the word for the future.
Total Time Needed: 8-10 minutes
Day 2: Get Students Talking About the New Word!
Resource: Think-Pair-Share Poster & Graphic Organizer
Think-Pair-Share/Think-Write-Pair-Share is my favorite way to get students talking about words!
This collaboration activity is done during morning meeting and it only takes 8 minutes!
⭐️ Learn more in my blog post, “What is Think Pair Share? and Why it Helps Build Students’ Vocabulary”
Total Time Needed: 8-10 minutes
Day 3: Practice Word Meaning & Synonyms Again
I use this activity as morning work when students first arrive for the day.
Students should work independently. If they are having difficulties they are allowed to ask a friend at their group for assistance. During Morning Meeting we discuss the activity by sharing our findings.
Total Time Needed: 5-8 minutes
Bonus Tip: Halfway through the year I added the grammar portion on the bottom of this graphic organizer. This was great for helping students practice writing different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex). It allowed for wonderful conversation and tremendous growth in their ability to write more complex sentences.
Day 4: Relating the Focus Word to Words We Already Know
Resource: Compare & Contrast Activity
This is my favorite activity of the week! This is the perfect way to build on students’ word learning, relate the focus words to words they already know and spark a fantastic class conversation.
Total Time Needed: 5-8 Minutes for Independent Work, 10 Minutes for Class Discussion
In this Compare & Contrast activity students are asked to rank the focus word and 5 synonyms from weakest to strongest. There is no correct answer, and students should have reasoning behind whey they chose to put each word where they did. During Morning Meeting we discuss why they put each word where.
Day 5: Using the Focus Word to Write Long & Strong
By the end of the week, students will have had a lot of practice using the focus word in conversation and should understand its meaning. They will have had at least 2 opportunities to use the focus word in a sentence, but now it’s time to write long and strong! On day 5 I ask my students to write a story themed around the focus word. This story can be from their own life, or fictional!
Total Time Needed: 10 -15 Minutes
Once a Month: Additional Writing, Review & Assess
- Every 3 weeks: Monthly Vocabulary Story
- Here are some example stories:
- This is a great way to incorporate writing and vocabulary. Due to Writing Workshop I rarely use writing prompts to kick start students writing anymore. However, it is a good skill to have to prepare for the state testing. Plus, it is a great way to review past words and see if students can successfully use each word in a sentence.
- Once a Month: Vocabulary Review and Quiz
- Every 4 weeks I quiz the kids on the words we have learned that month. First, I allow them to review the words with a partner using word cards I have created. They may take these home to study if they wish. An example of these word cards can be found here.
- The next day they are expected to complete a quiz. An example quiz can be found here.
These 5 Vocabulary Activities can be used with any vocabulary word! Starting with 2 graphic organizers, moving into activities to spark conversations and ending with a chance to incorporate new words students have learned into their writing.
If you’re looking for a resource that already has a pre-set word list, I’ve got you covered! This unit focuses on 10 character trait words and offers multiple opportunities to dig deeper whether it’s by connecting to words students already know, or by writing long and strong about each word.
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