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Vocabulary Activities that Get Kids to Love New Words

Janelle Cox

As teachers, we all know that building your vocabulary can have many benefits. Children who are given the opportunity to learn new words not only improve their vocabulary and communication skills, but have an increased academic success rate.

Acquiring a large vocabulary will enable people to understand you better as well as help you get your point across much easier. With students, we can teach them plethora of vocabulary and have that be our main focus. But, it’s also important to incorporate “words” in everything that you teach.

Here are a few effective vocabulary activities to get your students to love learning new words.

Vocabulary Activities: Read, Read, and Read Again

Reading is the most important step to increasing your vocabulary. Encourage your students to read, read aloud to your students, and do whatever it takes to immerse them in new words. When students are reading alone, have them write down any new words that they come across on sticky notes. Then they can look them up on their own or come to you and you can discuss them together. When reading aloud with your students, help them become aware of any new words you stumble upon by pausing and discussing them. You can even try reading aloud books such as “The Word Eater" by Mary Amato, who makes new vocabulary words part of the story.

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Be a Role Model

When students see and hear you using rich vocabulary, they too will want to. Students are curious by nature and love to learn new things. Use new and different vocabulary words with your students and see if they catch on. Many students will stop you if they don’t know a word that you used and ask you what it means. This is a great teaching moment to stop and start a discussion about the new word that you used. Ask students if they ever heard of the word before. Then, give them the definition and see if anyone can use it in a sentence. Later in the week, use the word again and see if anyone remembers what it meant. You will surprised how quickly students will catch on.

Provide a Word Wall

Make words accessible by providing a word wall. A word wall provides students with easy access to all kinds of words. It can have new words, site words, high frequency words, word families, and so on. As students come across words throughout the day, they can add words to the list. Try having students go on a word hunt. In the beginning of the day, choose one concept for students to search for, like words that end in “ed.” The students’ job is to keep an eye out for any and all words that have that ending throughout that day. At the end of the day, take a few moments to add all of the words students found that ended in “ed” to the word wall.

Vocabulary Activities: Play Word Games

What child doesn’t like games? Games are a fun way to get students motivated to discover new words. Try playing word games that challenge students to expand their vocabulary like Scrabble or Boggle. These games make test students vocabulary skills as well as helps them expand their own. If they are playing with a student who has a set of high frequency words that they use then the student will learn these words too. Cross word puzzles and word jumbles are another great tool for students to expand their vocabulary.

Word of the Day

Have a word of the day. This is a great way to expand students’ vocabulary. As soon as students enter the classroom, have a word of the day already on the front board. The students’ job is look the word up and write down the definition and use the word in a sentence. Each day they come into school, they learn a new word and add it to their journals. At the end of the week, randomly choose one word that they learned throughout the week and have students tell you what it means as well as use it in a sentence. This will not only help to expand their vocabulary, but it will also keep them on their toes!

By expanding students’ vocabulary, you will strengthen their use of the English language as well as increase the likelihood that they will do better in school. Celebrate words and make them a part of each and every day. Encourage students to have a love for words!

How do you get students to love learning new words? Do you have any tips, tricks, or fun activities that you do in your classroom? Share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators.

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