Vocabulary Boosters

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 9, 2019, 10:55 a.m.

I recently dove into researching best-teaching practices for increasing student vocabulary. This is a topic I am asked to present on frequently, probably because it is one of the most complex areas to teach. This summer I read, Responsive Literacy by Editor, Patricia L. Scharer. Here are some of their ideas for helping students strengthen language comprehension.

Conversations in the Classroom

Practice using language is key to increasing vocabulary. Language is learned through production. Simply holding frequent, brief conversations in your classroom will expose and give students the opportunity to practice using new words. Plan time to talk about a variety of concepts from personal to academic. Allot a time each day to allow students to discuss a question of the day. (i.e. Which do you prefer, YouTube or Netflix? Why?) We made discussion cards for you!

Read Aloud

Select 3-5 words from a daily read aloud to discuss with their students. Read aloud the text for the first time for students to comprehend the overall meaning of the text (day 1). The next day (day 2), reread the text and after the read aloud discuss the words with the students. Add the words to the class word wall. Have students add the words to their personal word wall. You can also have them create a vocabulary "no glue" book for the weekly words. Have students to draw a picture that shows word meaning and use the words in several different sentences.

Word Walls Organized by Units of Study

I love this idea of grouping words by units of study! Organizing words by how they relate is a great strategy for helping students make the meaning of words stick. For example:

Rainforest Words:

  • Habitat
  • Canopy
  • Kapok Tree
  • Evergreen
  • Amazon
  • Understory
  • Forest Floor
  • Ecosystem
  • Humid
  • Rainfall

All of our students come to us with different levels of vocabulary development. It is important for educators to meet their students right where they are in their vocabulary learning. These ideas are easy to implement in your classroom for "fast mapping" student's vocabulary development.

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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