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Enjoy the lazy, hazy days of summer now, because – before you know it – it will be time once again to dive into your content to begin the new school year! For language arts teachers, it’s helpful to have vocabulary instruction ideas and materials ready to go in addition to all of the reading and writing lessons that you’ve stockpiled from past years.
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What vocabulary instruction do you tackle during your school year? For me there were always the basics – prefixes, suffixes, roots, synonyms, and antonyms. Also denotations and connotations, and using context clues. And descriptive vocabulary or imagery for creative writing. And content vocabulary from stories. That’s a lot to cover!
Many of these topics will be at least touched on in the course of teaching literature and writing, but some materials and ready-to-use mini-lessons for direction instruction or review are a great thing to have in store, too.
Vocabulary Instruction Lessons
I’ve found lots of good lessons for vocabulary on the ReadWriteThink website from the National Council of Teachers of English. Here are a few:
- Flip-a-Chip is a long-time favorite for teaching the basics of mixing roots with prefixes or suffixes. It’s an interactive online activity.
- In the lesson A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words, students write a narrative based on a work of art. The image helps students to come up with specific vocabulary to use in their story.
- For content vocabulary from a reading, this activity in which students create online flash cards and use them to teach the vocabulary to the class looks like a fun and engaging choice.
Activities that incorporate movement are great to mix in throughout the day, and vocabulary is great for these types of activities because it is easy to use in little bits. A game of Footloose, in which students choose cards from a selection placed on the ledges around the room and answer each one before running up to choose another one, is always a fun choice. Any set of vocabulary task cards will work for this activity.
Vocabulary skills can easily be practiced with classroom games, too. A simple contest between two or more teams doesn’t require any special preparation, and kids never seem to get tired of the competition! Riddles, rhyming words, alliteration, or analogies are just some of the possible choices.
Traditional board games, like Pictionary or Scattergories, can be used as models for easy classroom games, too. For a Scattergories-type game, you could come up with a set of categories related to a novel that you are reading. For a picture-drawing game, you’ll need to make a set of word cards using vocabulary words that you want your kids to know.
I found a website, simply called Vocabulary.com, that seems really useful. In their “Lists” section, you can just type in a term, and it will provide a vocabulary list from a collection of saved lists. To try it out, I typed in the word “island” and up popped lists of vocabulary words for Island of the Blue Dolphins, Treasure Island, and The Cay.