Most educators understand how important vocabulary is to students’ learning, but the “how” is the hard part.
How do we foster meaningful vocabulary skills in students? Deeper and broader understanding of vocabulary meaning doesn’t happen all at once. Charlene Cobb and Camille Blachowicz in No More “Look Up the List” Vocabulary Instruction, say vocabulary learning should look like a dimmer switch where the understanding of a word’s meaning will increase over time. As students learn, the light becomes brighter.
The authors say that to begin, you need to “flood students with words,” so setting up your classroom for vocabulary learning is important.
First, create a classroom up with a variety of materials that inundate students with word learning: word charts, puzzle books, games, dictionaries, alphabet books, and apps. The materials should be engaging and attract students’ attention.
Next, engage the students daily in word play. Rosshalde Pak, in Engaging Classroom Games for All Grades, has suggestions for a variety of word games that are not only fun for the whole class, but encourage them to learn new vocabulary. Show your students you love learning new words by telling jokes and using puns in class. Challenge them to figure out why the joke is funny by playing with the meaning of words in the joke.
Finally, provide apps that your students can use at home. Assign homework on the apps to preview new vocabulary, so when you work on the words in class the next day, they will have some context for adding to their learning of new vocabulary.
Over time, students will not only learn more vocabulary (and broaden their skills), but they will understand the words more deeply. Flood your classroom with vocabulary and their lights will shine brightly.