Looking for a great method for introducing new vocabulary to kids in the intermediate grades? I’ve got you covered!
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I don’t know about you, but that word makes me feel guilty. Guilty about all the years I spent as a classroom teacher … and didn’t make time for focused vocabulary instruction.
It just felt like an extra. After all, I was hyper-focused on phonics, comprehension, and fluency. Vocabulary was a waaaay distant fourth. Who has time for fitting yet another thing in the school day, anyway?
Well, here’s the thing.
Vocabulary instruction deserves our time. After all, a strong vocabulary is crucial to being literate. Our kids may be able to sound out words (and even read them fluently), but what’s the point if they don’t know what they mean? Without a strong vocabulary, comprehension is going to suffer.
In today’s post I’m going to show you a simple, doable way to insert focused vocabulary instruction into your school day (or homeschool). You can do it!
How to do focused vocabulary
instruction in grades 3-5
1. Choose the words you’re going to teach.
If you’re doing whole class novel studies, it makes sense to get the words from those novels. But I’m not opposed to choosing grade-level tier two words and using those as well. As long as you’re diving deep into the words all week, I don’t believe that you have to start with literature.
*For more about choosing vocabulary words, see this post –> How to choose words for vocabulary instruction
2. Next, prepare a set of sentences – one for each word.
Leave a blank for each vocabulary word. Have students predict words that could go in the blanks.
For example, if one of your featured words is civilization, the sentence could be “We learned about the culture of the Mayan __________.”
Your students might guess words like people, group or even the correct word – civilization.
Important: You are not showing your students the new vocabulary words yet. You are having them guess what could go in the blanks based on their prior knowledge. These are not random guesses; they are educated guesses. Discuss the words that they predict. Do they make sense?
3. Introduce the new vocabulary words and have students predict their meanings.
Pull out a set of cards with a new vocabulary word written on each one. When introducing each new word, say it clearly and have your students repeat it. Clap the syllables together. Ask your students what the word means. As you do this, draw attention to the parts of the word as appropriate. Does it have a prefix or suffix that can help you with the word’s meaning? Is there a familiar root?
4. Have students predict which word fits in which sentence.
Now it’s time to pair the words with those sentences I mentioned in #2. Start with the first sentence. One by one, try each vocabulary word in the blank. Read the sentence together and discuss. Does it make sense? Use those context clues!
5. Have students add the words to their vocabulary journals.
I’ll be sharing free printable vocabulary journals later in this series. For now I’ll just say that you need to keep it simple – and you do not want students copying definitions from a dictionary. Instead, have them write a simple definition, draw a picture, write synonyms and antonyms (or examples/non-examples) and write their own sentence that communicates the meaning of the word. (We’ll get to this, I promise!)
6. Follow up with active vocabulary practice all week long.
In future posts I’ll share ideas for whole group and small group vocabulary activities that are actually fun. Stay tuned for those!
This method is from the wonderful book Word Nerds, by Overturf, Montgomery, and Smith. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to improve vocabulary instruction!
Of course, the above method isn’t the only way (it’s just my favorite). For other ideas for introducing new words, I recommend the book Bringing Words to Life, by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan.
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7
*Stock images via iStock
Is this method like the Scholastic Text Talk program? I used it some years ago and have been looking for it recently. It seems to be out of print.
I’m sorry, I haven’t heard of that program!
Your energy is amazing – how you manage to get all the knowledge down into practical worksheets and learning cards, plus your generosity in sharing it.
Many, many thanks,
tutor of English in Israel
You’re welcome, Agin! 🙂
I just wanted to share with you that I have been using your many printouts for My pre-k special ed classroom. I laminate them and use a variety of manipulatives for them to place in the proper spot (students have tactile issues so pom poms are tough for some). I have to teach many of them to be verbal and in order to do so I make vocabulary cards with large print and a picture of the corresponding manipulative for them to match to. We work on saying the words and allowing them to hold the object (like a cat) in their hands helps “it seem real” rather than use another picture. It can be taken further for the verbal students where they can be asked questions about the cat and inferences to where a cat might go at night.
You have wonderful ideas and lessons that can be differentiated to fit my special needs babies.
This is so wonderful to hear, Kelly! Thank you SO much for sharing!
How many words would you recommend introducing per week for intermediate students?
I would start with 5 and go up to 10 at the most.
I love your post. All the tips are useful to teach vocabulary for start up stage students. While introducing the new words in the class, we must know the meaning of the word & where we can use it in the sentence. Pronunciation is also important. They must know to split the word and pronounce. Explained well. waiting for more.
I’m so glad you find this useful, Ushaarvind!
I read all of your e-mails and go to your website to search for whatever I need for the students I tutor. Thanks for all you do!!!
Thank you so much, Becky! :))
I love reading your posts. I will be homeschooling my 8 year old in the fall and I look forward to getting all the help I need from you to be a success!
I hope you find many useful resources on my site, Margaret! 🙂 Blessings on your homeschooling journey! Also be sure to follow This Reading Mama. She has quite a few resources for that age level and will be sharing more.