It is Okay to Have Fun with Vocabulary!
Lisa V. Driver Ed. D.
Learning vocabulary is a life-long process. Learning new words and their meanings is essential to our student’s education. Teaching vocabulary at the middle and high school level does not have to be burdensome and routine. Students do not need a vocabulary list to learn new words—new words are all around them. You do not necessarily have to do the traditional look it up/use it in a sentence/take a quiz routine! How fun would it be to use the concepts that Peter Hamilton Reynolds proposes in his book Word Collector with high school students? This notion of collecting words versus rote memorization can change our work with middle and high school students. Have fun exploring and collecting words! The goal of teaching vocabulary is to expand a student’s word knowledge. We are well aware that research shows that students need varied and multiple exposures to a word before they fully assimilate and apply it.
Learning new vocabulary is an opportunity for students to be in charge of their learning, to be more engaged and innovative. TIME’s 2020 Kid of the Year, scientist, and inventor Gitanjali Rao, commented on the process she uses to learn, innovate, and be inspired. The 15-year-old goes through a process of “observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate.” Could teachers incorporate Gitanjali’s process with vocabulary instruction to facilitate inspiration and innovation? Vocabulary activities, hands-on manipulatives, games, apps, and interactive websites do just that, exposing words to students in engaging ways. Providing students multiple opportunities to understand definitions and meanings through multiple exposures with vocabulary games/activities help students build word knowledge. Here are a few examples.
- Word storm
- Semantic maps
- Word Charting
- Concept Cubes
- Word Sneak
- Flyswatter Game
As a teacher, finding more innovative, engaging ways to teach vocabulary facilitates student participation and engagement. Providing an environment where students are curious and observant about new words, willing to research meanings, and inspired to build their repertoire for words, is key to adolescent vocabulary instruction!
Lisa V. Driver, Ed.D., Literacy Consultant
Lisa has been an educator for over 35 years in Vermont schools as a middle school teacher, literacy coach, literacy interventionist, and literacy coordinator. In 1993 she was named a UVM Outstanding Teacher for the FWSU Supervisory Union. Lisa completed her doctoral studies in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont in the spring of 2010. Over the course of her career, she has worked to develop high quality adolescent literacy instruction with a special emphasis on struggling readers and writers. She has a passion for providing literacy instruction to ALL students. Lisa is currently a literacy consultant for Partnerships in Literacy and Learning. She lives in Georgia, Vermont with her husband spending springtime making VT maple syrup!