5 tips for teaching vocabulary in secondary ELA

5 tips for teaching vocabulary in secondary ELA

For many middle school ELA and high school English teachers, teaching and including vocabulary in the classroom is just one more task, one more thing to do that takes away from reading and writing. However, as tedious of a task as it can be, including vocabulary in your curriculum is integral to helping students become stronger readers and writers.

Here are 5 tips to help busy teachers focus on vocabulary

Focus on fewer words

Having fewer words on vocabulary lists is one of the best ways to make vocabulary less daunting for both teachers and students. As a recommendation, I like to include no more than five vocabulary words a week so that students can focus more on each word. Fewer vocabulary words also help students not mix up words. With both my Academic Vocabulary Program, I provide students with just five vocabulary words a week.

Have a routine

When students have a routine, they know what to expect in the classroom. One of the things that I like best about how I include vocabulary is that we have a routine and focus on the words each day, even if for only five minutes as a warm-up or exit ticket. On Mondays, I introduce students to the words. On Tuesdays, students draw a quick sketch associated with the word. On Wednesdays, they create a word web to help them expand on and reflect on their understanding of the words. The routine in the Academic Vocabulary Program is fun and engaging!

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Reward student use

Encourage students to use the vocabulary words in context in class during classroom discussions, and reward students when they do. Rewards don’t have to be much, a simple acknowledgment and praise go a long way, especially when it is genuine. One of my favorite things to do is to encourage my students to use the vocabulary words at home, especially if it is a fun or a tricky word that other people will notice.

Keep it consistent

In order to maintain an effective vocabulary program, consistency is key. With the exception of shorter weeks because of holidays and rallies, it is really important to try to include vocabulary each week. However, sometimes, scheduled breaks can be a good thing. Whenever I schedule a break from vocabulary for my students, I let them know that we are taking a break but will continue next week. That helps hold me accountable, especially because it can be very easy to forget to start back up the next Monday.

Create a word wall

Creating a word wall can be a fun and engaging way for teachers to visually show students just how many words they’ve been introduced to and learned during the year. For each vocabulary word that you introduce, assign one student to that word. Provide students with a note card, and then give the student time to create a vocabulary notecard with the word written in big, bold text with the definition written underneath the word. Encourage students to use vibrant, bold colors and decorate the card. The end result will be a stunning classroom display.

If any of these ideas are help[pful, or if you are looking to implement more vocabulary in your classroom, be sure to sign up for my emails and check out my Academic Vocabulary Program

5 tips for teaching vocabulary in secondary ELA