I don’t know about you, but the high school students at my school are dealing with some major gaps. One of the biggest gaps we have identified is vocabulary. We also know that vocabulary is one of the biggest hurdles to understanding a text.
In this post, I will be discussing 3 FREE AND FUN strategies that can be used to help teach vocabulary to your high school and middle school students. These activities also work well for all abilities (yay for strategies that fit our already jammed-pack schedules)!
Finding Better Words to Resurrect
Coincidentally, one of my BIGGEST pet peeves as a an English teacher is when I look at my high schoolers’ papers and it is littered with ‘very’.
One one I combat this is by adding a criteria to my two-point rubrics that stated they refrained from using filler words like ‘very’ and ‘so’. If you haven’t heard me talk about how life-changing 2-point rubrics can be before, here’s a blog post you can check out!
With this activity, I took it up a WHOLE other level by killing them off and resurrecting the better words in its place.
To demonstrate to students the need for learning more impactful words, two mentor sentences were shared to show the effect of choosing one powerful word in place of two weaker ones. The example mentor sentences were “I was very scared and ran away” and “I was terrified and ran away”. After pointing out that they both effectively say the same thing, but then posed the question as to which one had more emotion and truly demonstrated fear.
OBVIOUSLY, it’s the second one!
Students were then given tombstones with the ‘very’ words to kill off. Such as ‘very sad’, ‘very bad’, ‘very happy’, etc. Then they had to put at least three words they would resurrect and use instead next time.
With all of these tombstones, they then created graveyard Word Wall!
Now, anytime they are stuck with figuring out a better word, they can go right to the graveyard and resurrect better words in its place.
Would you like to get your hands on 50 of these tombstones for your students to use today? Click here!
One of my favorite ways to make grammar and vocabulary highly engaging so that students actually want to do them and learn are through games. I recently found this fun, FREE, and no-prep vocabulary resource I have started using in my classroom- Merriam- Webster’s games and quizzes.
I find which game or quiz I want to use, copy the URL for it, head over to classroomscreen.com, past it into my QR code generator, add a timer, and directions along with the day’s agenda.
If you want to see a tutorial video, you can check out this Tik Tok video I made!
This has been lots of fun as I make it a competition style warmup in which they have to get a certain number correct and then they get Dojo points that I use for PBIS purposes and a piece of candy (win win on getting rid of this MASSIVE pile of Halloween candy).
These are random vocabulary and spelling activities and students can keep playing until they reach the desired level of accuracy. What I extra love about these is that is exposing them to lots of different vocabulary and they are fun. The spelling challenge was extra great for my ESOL students who often know the words when they hear them, but may now know how to spell them yet.
With vocabulary.com you can create or use pre-made vocabulary lists that students can learn and practice vocabulary with flashcards. But, the really FUN practice comes with the Vocabulary Jams!
With these, you have students join a competition that you can set the controls on as far as difficulty, speed, and number of questions. Students are broken up into teams and work quickly to gain as many points as possible. This simple act of making it a competition takes it to a whole other level with my students and I usually see fantastic results!
Mad Libs with only assigned vocabulary can be a fun and engaging way to assess students with their vocabulary. I like to use this idea after a few rounds of assigned vocabulary to assess their cumulative knowledge of the words.
I know there are MANY wonderful ways to teach, practice, and assess vocabulary. It is a critical skill for text comprehension for all levels of students. So, I hope this post gave you a few ideas to help bridge this gap and I would love to hear of anything you are doing that wasn’t mentioned!