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Tips to Help Students Build Vocabulary

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 4/5/2012

A lively vocabulary is a wonderful asset for any career a student chooses. Building vocabulary also helps students improve their writing skills.

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    Reading is the best way to develop vocabulary. Encourage students to do reading in their free time both with books and with online articles. Tell students the more they read the stronger their vocabulary and writing skills will be.

    Read Books

    Have a share library in the classroom to allow students to take novels home for free time reading. Find inexpensive books at garage sales, thrift shops, or the flea market to build a share library. Also ask people in your life who have children near the age of your students to pass along any novels their children are done with. Once you put the word out that you need books people are typically generous about donating novels.

    Read the New York Times or other Major Papers Online

    Read at least one major paper online a few times a week to build vocabulary. Write down new vocabulary words and look them up in the dictionary. Do a quick scan of the front pages of as many newspapers as possible to find words you have never seen before.

    Keep Specialized Dictionaries in the Classroom

    Find dictionaries that list words used in certain careers and add them to the share library. Helping students learn the vocabulary for their future career is always a great idea.

    Have Special Projects: Vocabulary Definition Team Contest or Team Debate

    Build team work and vocabulary skills by having students work together to learn and use new vocabulary words. Have teams study together and quiz each other about vocabulary words. Then have a competition of one team against the other to see which team can define the most vocabulary words. Then hold a debate on a topic that will enable students to use the new vocabulary words.

    Use Word of the Day Websites to Build a Vocabulary Word Wall

    Create a word wall in the classroom by using poster board to list individual words on the word wall. Find the words by visiting word of the day websites. Find these sites by googling phrases such as “word of the day" or “vocabulary lists."

    Have Students Ask People about Their Favorite Words

    Assign a homework assignment to “interview" 3 people to ask them to list a few of their favorite words.Then the next day ask volunteers to discuss what words they gathered and what they mean.

    Assess students’ ongoing vocabulary knowledge with vocabulary quizzes and assignments that require them to utilize vocabulary words in essay writing. Also have students keep a vocabulary journal with new words added each day. Check the journal at least once a week to grade progress with defining new vocabulary words.