Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ideas for Vocabulary Instruction


Vocabulary Instruction is essential in every content area and can have a significant impact on a student’s comprehension of text. With that, Vocabulary Instruction is something faculty in all fields must think about. When teaching Vocabulary it’s important to keep in mind strategies for success; here are 12 points to consider:

Effective Vocabulary Instruction:
1) Makes connections to students’ lives, studies, and interests.
2) Makes connections/relationships between new words and other words.
3) Involves analysis through comparing and contrasting.
4) Involves categorization and classification.
5) Involves stories about words.
6) Helps students detect meaningful patterns in words.
7) Provides for a degree of personal ownership.
8) Explore old words to new depths.
9) Explores the implied meanings of words and phrases.
10) Is game-like and engaging.
11) Use word knowledge to improve writing.
12) Use word knowledge to construct meaning while reading (comprehension)

One activity faculty can use in teaching vocabulary is to have students create personal dictionaries using graphic organizers. These dictionaries can include:

1) The New Term/Concept

2) A Personal Definition/Description (written in students’ own words)

3) A Representative drawing

– These dictionaries might also include the word’s synonyms and antonyms (showing what the word is and what it is not).

To begin, faculty can use a direct instruction or class discussion model to help students complete their personal dictionary graphic organizers. To benefit from collaborative learning, students might also share their entries with each other to add helpful information they learn from their classmates.

Of course, students must do something with their new vocabulary in order to internalize them. One activity is to have students “interview” words.

Step 1:   Have students imagine that the term/concept is a person that the student is going to interview.

Step 2:  Have students write 2-3 interview question that get at the fundamental traits of the word.

Step 3: Have students answer those questions in a T-chart.

For example:

Term/Concept:  Choloroplast

Questions:  1) What are you?  2) Where do you exist?  3) Why are you needed?

Answers: I am a small structure that is part of a plant cell. I exist in the cytoplasm of that cell and you can find me with a microscope. I look green because I am where light energy is converted into energy that plants use to live.


Vocabulary comprehension is essential to understanding texts and to communicating in ways that are “acceptable” to a community, such as the community of Science Course Students & Teachers. Hopefully, we are all able to help students learn new words and use them in ways that help them to internalize, more than just memorize their meanings.