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Building Vocabulary: A Lesson Plan

written by: Margie • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/4/2012

A large and varied vocabulary is important to a student’s academic success. Most people know that the easiest and most common way to build a big vocabulary is to read often, but, as we all know, there are many students that do not enjoy reading and need other ways to learn new words.

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    It always helps to make vocabulary activities interesting so that students remain engaged and retain the words they learned. Following is an entertaining activity that many students enjoy.

    1) Before class, prepare several words that students may be unfamiliar with, but that would be good choices for use in their writing and speaking. They might also be words that you know they will come across in their assigned reading in the near future.

    2) Write each word on an index card. You should have enough cards for each student.

    3) Have students pick a card. They should not be able to see any other cards and warn them not to show anyone their word.

    4) Instruct students to write a paragraph of four to six sentences using their word. The trick is that they must “hide” their word in their paragraph because their classmates will be guessing their word. To hide their word successfully, they must use additional advanced words.

    For example, if their assigned word is “proclaim” and there is no other word in their paragraph containing more than four letters, it will be pretty obvious to their classmates which word was assigned to them. This builds their vocabulary even more because it forces them to look for new words to use in their paragraphs.

    5) Be sure to make it a rule that the word has to be used correctly to receive credit. This should force students to use a dictionary and thesaurus.

    6) After everyone is finished, have students share their work and allow the class to guess which word was assigned. To make it more interesting, you might offer small prizes, such as a pencil or candy (if your school allows it) to the writer if no one guesses their assigned word. It is a good idea to limit the guesses to two or three or this activity can become too time-consuming.

    7) You might also choose to have students write their paragraphs on Monday and then share four or five each day that week. That way, it doesn’t take too much of any one class period and you have a built-in vocabulary lesson each day.

    8) After a paragraph has been shared, be sure to talk about the word, give the correct spelling, and ask for any questions or comments about its meaning.

    Like all activities, this one can be adapted to suit your particular classroom needs.You may choose to assign a word to a group, which would greatly reduce the amount of time needed to complete the activity and help students learn to work together.