Tricks and Treats for Teaching Vocabulary in the Secondary Classroom

In our secondary content-based classrooms, we often forget the importance of starting with the fundamentals, including the teaching of vocabulary.  For many, this task is a boring, repetitive task where students define terms in exchange for a grade in the gradebook.  That should not be the case.  Learning vocabulary should be engaging, it should be fun, and it should be memorable.
Tricks for teaching vocabulary in the secondary classroom

So, in honor of our Secondary Smorgasbord theme of All Treats & No Tricks for Teachers this month, I'm going to offer a vocabulary teaching treat, but also a few tricks for implementing the lessons with ease!

First of all, the TREAT!  Yes, I know!  That's the most important part.

With this easy Vocabulary Graphic Organizer, students can record vocabulary at the beginning of each unit, notate it's connotation for the unit, and illustrate the image for a graphic reminder of its use and importance.

And then there are the TRICKS:
  • Assign individual vocabulary to pairs or small groups of students. Have each group become experts on the term and report back to their classmates.  Reporting can be visual, oral, or even a performance!
  • Always have students illustrate vocabulary.  Not only does their hand motion impress on their brain, but the visual will help them recall the term when it is needed at a later time.  Make the visualization fun by creating a complete wall mural with your vocabulary list each unit.  
  • Play games with words.  Create puzzles, matching games, or even crosswords to help students correlate terms with their meanings.  Use a Word Wall Game Board to build up your vocabulary in an interactive manner.
Teaching vocabulary does not have to be a boring routine in your classes.  It can be a fun activity that reinforces the terms while helping your students step into the upcoming unit in a way that will keep them engaged and interested as they learn new words.  In the end, they will be better prepared for your course, but also better prepared for their future academic careers.

Follow my blog in upcoming weeks for an in-depth study of the academic vocabulary all students need at the secondary level.  Additional tools may be offered along the way!

And be sure to link through the Secondary Smorgasbord hosted by Desktop Learning Adventures and The ELA Buffet for other great TREATS, and maybe a few good tricks, too!

Michele Luck

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