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.
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