Vocabulary Strategies

Which Words Fit?
Write the list of key words on the front board, or project it from a Word document. Under the words, write the definition for each of the words but not in the same order as the list. Have students try to match words with definitions. As students read through the chapter in the textbook, have them refer back to their lists and definitions and make changes where necessary.

Word Splash
Arrange the key words randomly on the board, leaving room between the words for brainstorming. Have students contribute words or phrases they think define the key words. Group the suggested words around the associated key words. Have students refer to the word splash as they read the chapter in the textbook to check for accuracy. Then have students use each of the key words in a sentence of their own that demonstrates they have learned the word’s meaning. Students could write these sentences individually or as a small group.

Word Tree
Write the key words on the front board, or project them from a Word document. Divide students into small groups; each group will be assigned one key word from the chapter. Tell students they are responsible for working with other group members to complete the word tree for the key word they are assigned.

Directions for the word tree:

Top of Tree—Key word
Branch 1—Definition
Branch 2—A sentence from the text in which the word is found
Branch 3—Three examples of people who might use this word
Branch 4—An original sentence using this word

Collect each group’s word tree and project it on the board. Have each group share their word tree with the class.

Exclusion Brainstorming
Make a list of the key words in the chapter, and include other words that would not necessarily be found in that chapter. Project these words on the front board. Have students read the chapter title and subheadings. In a group, have students then look at the list of words projected on the front board. Explain that many of the words will be read in the text but that some do not belong. Ask students to identify the words they would exclude. They should explain why: for example, “I would exclude ‘car’ because early people didn’t have cars.” Have them draw a line through each excluded word. After they have read the chapter, project the words on the front board again. Would they include some of the words they excluded before they read this chapter?

Related Words
Have students look in the glossary for each of the key words listed in the chapter. Have them write down the key words and the definitions in their notebooks. With a partner, have students group the words into sets based on commonalities. For example, they might group words that are all “tools” or that are related to a specific profession, such as “miner.” They should be able to explain why each word belongs in a particular set. After they read the chapter, have students revisit their word sets to reevaluate whether they would keep the words in those sets or move them into different sets.

Have students define each key word found in the chapter using contextual clues. Then have them write the key word in a sentence showing their understanding of the word.

Concept Definition Map
Divide the class into groups. Each group will focus on one of the key terms in the chapter. Have students create a concept map for their assigned word:

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What are some examples?

Do You Know These Words?
Have students look through the list of key words at the beginning of the chapter. Have them make a four-column chart. In the first column, have students write each of the key words. In the second column, have students put a checkmark if they can define the word. In the third column, have students put a checkmark if they have seen or heard of the word. In the fourth column, have students write the definition if they know it.

Key word X if I can define the word X if I have seen or heard of the word Definition                               




After students read the chapter, have them revisit this chart and fill in any definitions they did not already know.

Pictorial Analysis
Break students up into groups. Each group will work on one key word from the chapter. Have each group find the definition of the word in the glossary. Give them a blank piece of paper or butcher paper and colored pencils. Groups should draw a pictorial representation of the key word. Have each group write the key word as the title, and then have groups draw a representation of the word using only symbols and illustrations. Share these with the class and post around the classroom so students can refer to the pictures while reading the chapters.

Two-Column Chart
Have students create a two-column chart. In the first column, have students write each key term from the chapter. As they read through the chapter, have students write down the definition in their own words in column two. They should use context clues to help them define the key term. Have students share their definitions with a partner or small group.

Who Am I?
Give students enough 3-inch x 5-inch cards for each key word in the chapter. Have students write one of the key words on one side of each card. At the top of the other side of the card, they should write “Who am I?” As they work through the chapter, have students write a description of the key word on the back of each card without giving away too many details about the word. After students read the chapter and complete the cards, have them walk around the room with their cards. When you tell them to stop (or the music stops), they should find someone next to them and read them the back of one of their Who am I? cards. The partner needs to guess the key word. For example, Who am I? I like it when they place babies in me so I can keep them safe and secure. The answer is “Cradleboard.” Have students repeat this activity until they have gone through all their cards.

Have students create a flipchart of the key terms found in the chapter. They should include the word on one side, and on the back or inside they should include a definition in their own words; a picture, symbol, or illustration; and an example of the word. Have students complete the chart as they read through the chapter.