When I first began teaching, I addressed vocabulary the way most of my own teachers had. I handed out lists of words, usually words students would encounter in a novel we were reading, and then I quizzed them later in the week. I might have added those same words to an end-of-unit test, but that’s the closest we came to returning to them. Any vocabulary activities we did were pretty minimal; my students created flashcards or wrote the words in sentences, but that was about it.
Of course, I learned quickly that this approach alone did not work. (It’s dizzying how much we learn in those first years of teaching!) The students who cared about their grades would look at their flashcards before quizzes or a test, but many of the students did not retain a lasting understanding of them. After some self-reflection, it came to me that students were not remembering the words because they did not approach them in a memorable way.
If my story sounds like yours, or if you do use engaging vocabulary activities but are looking to branch out, keep reading! Increasing your students’ vocabularies will not only improve their reading comprehension and their narrative and argumentative writing skills; it will also set them up for overall academic success. And as a bonus, their writing will be a lot more fun for you to read!
6 Steps to Review Vocabulary
For our latest issue for the EB Teachers’ Club, we decided to create vocabulary review in the most engaging format we could think of: games! After all, when you think back on your own school memories, the days you remember best are probably the ones in which a teacher set aside the normal script and approached a topic in a really fun way. Vocabulary games take a little preparation, but we promise it will pay off; the experience will last in students’ minds, and so will their vocabulary words. Whether you are using the games we created (which are super fun!) or making up your own, follow these steps for a successful lesson.
1. Choose Your Words
The Issue #24 for our EB Teachers’ Club members is designed for you to use with your own vocabulary word lists. After all, you know best which words your students should be learning. Maybe your students already have vocab lists, and you just have to make sure they still have access to them. Or maybe they will be reading a novel with challenging vocabulary that you can pull words from. You may even have a list based on word roots.
2. Decide on Your Game(s)
Our Vocabulary Games Issue includes six different games to choose from (six for grades 5-6 and six more for grades 7-8). You’ll have to decide if you want to do a bunch of games, spreading them out for a week of fun, or focus on just a few. Which ones you choose will depend on your class. Some games are quieter, such as Bluff, in which students stand up to claim they know a definition (though you may call their bluff if they don’t!). Others are more boisterous, such as Word Toss, where students use their basketball skills in addition to their vocabulary knowledge. Some games are for the whole class at once, and some are meant for small groups. There’s a lot to choose from! We’ve even included a life-size vocabulary board game that will really put students in the game!
3. Prep Ahead
The EB Academics team believes that success is in the details. You can liven up games with classroom decor, add a touch of technology with scoreboards displayed on a screen, and take the time to laminate colorful game pieces. Trust us, students will notice these details and become further invested in play, as your enthusiasm will be contagious.
Don’t have the time for all of this? While we can’t laminate or cut out pieces for you, we’ve done much of the rest of the work in the Vocabulary Games Issue.
4. Give Students Some Review Time
Make sure that students have access to all the words that will be used in your games, and give them some time in class to review their words before playing. The games won’t be any fun if students lack confidence going into them.
5. Have Fun!
Pass out some popcorn, cheer on your students, and laugh along with them as they play. All the prep you put in beforehand will help in classroom management as students become absorbed in the competition, so enjoy these fun, memorable days as you watch your students’ knowledge grow.
6. Don’t Forget to Assess Students’ Learning
Of course, you will get some idea of students’ knowledge as you observe them at play. But in order to feel confident in individual student learning, make sure to include a brief assessment afterward. This can be something small, like an exit slip; it doesn’t have to be a quiz or test. If you are using the games from our Vocabulary Games Issue, we have included a “Show What You Know Slip” for each game. These slips are modeled on the games themselves, and will offer you a quick comprehension check.
So if you want to expand your students’ lexicons while treating them to an entertaining break from their typical day, consider vocabulary games as part of your review. It will be a lesson they won’t soon forget.
Would you like to get your hands on our Vocabulary Games for your classroom? Did you know you can get this resource and more, all in our monthly membership, the EB Teachers’ Club? Enrollment will open in June, so be sure to get added to our waitlist now by clicking here.
🎵 Learn More About the Topics Covered on our Podcast 🎵
Episode 99: Is your Narrative Writing Really Improving Your Students’ Writing Skills?
In this episode, we share the three questions you should ask yourself about your narrative writing units to make sure your students are really mastering the writing standards.
Episode 46: Making the Case for More Fun in the Classroom!
Adding more fun to your ELA lessons will bring light and life into your classroom. You will find yourself surrounded by happier students, and you will feel more fulfilled.
Tune in to this episode to learn an awesome low-prep activity you can try today with your students!