Quick Ways to Teach Vocabulary With Limited Class Time

Decades of research have shown that having a strong vocabulary is one of the single most reliable predictors of a student’s future academic and career success.

PW-38-3.jpgBut, it can be really hard to find time to devote to vocabulary instruction, when there’s already so much you need to do in the limited class time you have with your students. Here are some ways to teach vocabulary that won’t take up a lot of time:

1. Use strong vocabulary yourself

One of the best ways to help students learn new vocabulary is to use vocabulary words in your everyday speech. Make sure to slip in vocabulary words as you talk to your class (“There’s quite a dearth/plethora of enthusiasm this morning!”), as you give feedback (“Great job on being diligent in your fact-checking.”), or as you interact with your students (“I appreciate your tenacity, Mr. Jones, but there will be no retakes.“). Use strong vocabulary in all your interactions and your students will learn by example.

2. Use Twitter for a “Word of the Day”

Pick one of the many “Vocabulary Word of the Day” Twitter options for your students to follow as part of their homework. Ask students to reuse the “Word of the Day” in a tweet. Have them use a custom hashtag (#MsJonesEnglish11) to make it easy for you to see who has participated. Or, better yet, rotate monitoring duties among your students, so that one student is responsible for reviewing all the tweets and nominating the best ones to share in class.

3. Use Instagram or Pinterest to create an online word wall

Thumbnail image for PW-38-2.pngStudents are never too old for a word wall, especially when they can participate via their smartphone. There are so many great images and memes that pair vocabulary words with related cartoons and images. Task your students with helping you to create a visual word wall via Instagram or Pinterest (see our example here) as part of their homework. Create further engagement by having students use the vocabulary words in the comments.

4. Do a daily vocabulary warm-up

A daily vocabulary warm-up is a great way to get the class started. Take the first few minutes of class, as students are still settling in, to review a word of the day. This can be a word that you select, or better yet, you can assign students to select a word and be responsible for defining it and offering examples to their classmates.

5. Assign vocabulary-rich articles

The best way to learn vocabulary is to read more. Assign vocabulary-rich online articles for your students to read as part of their homework. There are  great articles from top-notch sources like The New York TImes, CNN, and National Geographic that are about teen-friendly topics AND that use lots of great vocabulary words. If you’re based in the Philadelphia area, you can check out our daily suggestions at Philly.com/vocabulary.

Do you have other suggestions or tips? Let me know @professorword!

Until next time,


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Photo Credit: Flickr user Michael Coghlan



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