Vocabulary is essential in learning new things. The more vocabulary a student knows, the more they can assimilate new information. You have probably noticed a few words that are repeated quite often when reading through content area standards. Name, identify, describe, and terms are all words that indicate a student will be using vocabulary to demonstrate understanding of that concept. Vocabulary is an important aspect to schema or background knowledge.
There are four types of vocabulary practice that I have found to help students commit vocabulary to memory and use it correctly:
In Context – Using vocabulary in context is the best way to learn the definition, correct usage, and real life application of each vocabulary word. This can be utilized by having students use context clues to define the words from their reading. You can assign words for students to locate everywhere the words are used in a text. And most importantly, you can assign words for students to find used in hands-on learning. They can report on how they used each word in their lab. More specific ideas are found in the bist below.
Writing – I have read several articles lately explaining that hand-written notes are more effective at helping people remember information. I know that throughout college, I would remember just about anything that I wrote out while I was studying. So, my studying sessions involved me rewriting everything that I had learned. I am not suggesting plain ole boring writing out everything for vocabulary practice in the classroom because its not fun or engaging. However, there are some ways we can change up presenting hand-written vocabulary practice to make it fun and engaging.
Movement – Just like with writing, study after study shows the benefits of movement in the learning environment. I have taught 8th grade Advanced Science, 7th grade Science, 5th grade (ELA, Science, & Social Studies), and pre-k. No matter what the age, turning a lesson into a move around the room activity or a game makes engagement skyrocket. And engagement equals more learning! I have some fun ways in the list that incorporate movement.
Games – Games are fun and boost engagement levels. But, even more amazing than simply raising engagement, I have seen kids learn incredible amounts of information without even knowing that they are learning! I love when I can sneak learning into a game. Its a win for everyone.
Creative Output – I love this one the most because it incorporates the student output of writing (or drawing or designing) with the fun level of movement and games. Creative output activities are a fun way to sneak in some serious critical thinking!
Now let’s get to the good stuff!
My BIG List of Vocabulary Activities for Science (or any content area)
1.Word Wall Cards – Posted around the room by category or alphabetical as a reminder or reference, and a tool for some fun games.
2.Word Wall Builder Chart – Guide students through building a knowledge of their vocabulary words using prior knowledge, context clues, and real life experiences.
3.Write the Room – Send students around the room, or word wall, looking for each hint in their chart. Use your word wall or hide words around the room.
4.Writing with Key Terms – Add vocabulary from the lesson and have students write an informational text, summary, or story using the words.
5.Vocab Boxes – Students can complete the boxes to demonstrate understanding of the words.
6.I Have…Who Has?
7.Science Says – Game played like Simon Says using content words and actions to remember what the words mean.
8.Vocab Practice Page
9.Vocab Matching Cards
10.Memory Game with Vocab Matching Cards
11.Go Fish with Vocab Matching Cards
12. Word Art
14.Vocab Roll & Review
15.Vocab Spin & Review
17.Vocab Comic Strips
18.Spin-A-Hint Guessing Game
19.Vocab Thumb Ball – Using a wet erase marker, write hints for your vocabulary words (definitions or illustrations) all over a beach ball. Throw the ball around the room and when someone catches it, they have to define the word that is described under their right thumb.
20.Vocab Tumbling Tower – Paint then ends of blocks from a tumbling tower game with dry erase or chalkboard paint. Write vocab words on the end of the blocks for each game. To pull a block out of the stack , students must define the word.
21.Vocab Treasure Hunt – Spread vocab word coins around the room so students can take turns (or racing in two groups) picking up coins. They have to define the word to keep the coin.
22.Vocab Choice Board
23.Crossword Puzzle (with definition or illustration as hints)
25.Word Sorter Pockets
26.Quick Draw (Dry Erase Game) – Print and Laminate the board for multiple uses. Students will use dry erase markers to write the word you define. Say “show me what you know!” and students will hold up their board for you to see who knows the word.
27.Character Quote Clouds (use the word)
28.Board Game (roll and define to move)
29.Vocab Song Creation
32.Stoplight Vocab Self Assessment – use small sticky notes with the vocabulary words and move them to green as they are learned. Laminate the stoplight and use dry erase marker for the words.
33.Picture Word Wall – Type or write the words on the cards and add an image, print, and post on your classroom word wall.
34.Draw the Room – Send students around the room to find and draw the correct image for each hint on their paper. Use your word wall or hide picture word wall cards around the room.
36.Vocab Mini Books – Works for Interactive Notebook or as stand alone mini books.
37.Vocab Review Sort Pocket Folders – Works on their own, but can be glued into a notebook.
38.Anchor Chart with Labeled Parts – (ie: parts of an insect) Use the vocabulary words to label the picture. Make the picture something that encompassed all the grouped vocabulary words.
39.Word Search with definition or picture as hint.
40.Act It Out! Guessing Game
41.Interactive Read and Act – (Act out Word when you read it in a text!) Printable reference chart template will help students plan their actions and remember what to look for.
42.Word Poem (Haiku)
43.Classifying with Vocab Words – have students sort a selection of objects or observations between two or three vocabulary words. This gives a hands-on approach to applying vocabulary words to what they are learning. (i.e. sorting Living/Nonliving or Reflection/Refraction)
44.Vocab Strips – Works great for an exit slip or homework activity!
45.Letter Tile Game – played like a simple version of Scrabble.
49.All About the Word – Chart
50.Vocab-oo Game – (Played similar Taboo)
51.Vocab Character (Personify the Word) – Basher Books are great for a read aloud that will help with this activity! They are a must have on my bookshelves, and they are available in all sorts of subjects.
I hope having this list helps you plan and prep without having to search for ideas!
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