10 Quick Vocabulary Activities

Just a quick blog that could have been a thread, but then I thought I would need to upload the resource anyway… so… here we go…

I posted the tweet above and got some amazing suggestions of activities and links to research – bless the world of Twitter. So in the spirit of that sharing here are the final ten activities I’ve created resources for. I should probably load this preamble with the fact that we have selected the words that link to our curriculum concepts. For the examples I’ve given, it’s a Y9 unit which explores ‘Prejudice in Literature’ and the ten concept nouns are prejudice, tolerance, compassion, autonomy, segregation, marginalisation, radicalisation, equity, objectivity, and subjectivity.

Last bit of preamble – this isn’t about learning lots and lots of fancy words. This is about strengthening their vocabulary to enable them to discuss the bigger concepts within the curriculum, and to be precise in their word choices when discussing texts (these ten words are the focus for a full term). The idea with these activities is repeated exposure to the words and playing with them, their nuances, and using the words in discussion/written work as much as possible. I’ve tried to address common issues I’ve found when students are learning how to use words, so that as a teacher I can target my own class with the right activity.

The first five tasks are essentially worksheets requiring written engagement, the second five are PPT slides requiring discussion.

[DISCLAIMER] – I haven’t used any of this with kids yet, although I’ve done some form of each of them before. Don’t heckle me with mistakes/issues/ why they won’t work (although I do welcome feedback). Genuinely.

1. Which image and why?

I suppose this one is about students playing with the boundaries of the word, and to an extent creating their own version of the word. I’ve seen suggestions where people get students to draw a version of the word, which is obviously easier, but if I hear 3 people saying “I can’t draw” my stress levels hit the roof. So this is a happy medium for me.

I’m actually asking them to rank the images so I want some kind of reasoning here as to why one image doesn’t quite fit the word for them. Of course, the reality is that all three can work, and there is no right picture. More examples below. I used a mixture of flaticon and thenounproject to find the images.

2. Which form of the word?

This one comes from when students use the incorrect form of the word for a sentence, even if they clearly understand the semantics. I originally had just the words that needed to go in the box but then I threw some more in (my Y9 class are already quite familiar with the words) but this could be changed to just have the correct words in the box.

3. Which sentence and why?

Here what I’m really looking for is understanding the nuance of the word. This is for when students can use it technically correctly but make statements that just don’t feel right – you know? I have no idea what I mean by this but I suppose this can allow discussion over why the one sentence doesn’t quite fit the definition of the word. This is all about building that full mental model of the word for them so they can use it confidently.

4. Which subject fits?

For this one it’s about adapting the word beyond the English classroom so we’re actually building fluency and articulacy rather than compartmentalising in the one classroom. So I’ve just come up with ways to relate the words to other subjects and they just have to answer the question using the word. A bit more open and opinion based this one, and just another way to use the words.

5. Can you finish the sentence?

For a long time I’ve been asking students to write a sentence with a new word and just hoping that they will know how to do that. I’ve pretty much completely moved away from this as a task now, in the hope that if I embed the vocabulary enough, they will do this without being forced. For me it’s about showing them how to include the word and them giving the justification for that word, so I’ve moved more towards this sort of thing now. I’ve stuck with the varied word forms too so that they are again, playing with the word as much as possible.

6. Positive or negative?

For this one I just want to build their understanding of how to use the word and then develop the understanding of the right prefix attached to that word (often students pick these up, but sometimes they will guess… why not just tell them?). This one is a quick 3 minute thing – discuss, hands up, give correct one. Super speedy.

7. What’s the news?

This goes back to the subject one – I want students to see the words in lots of contexts. I also think that I get in a bit of a “definition rut” where I keep giving the same examples. Looking these headlines up has given me some new ways in to the words. Another speedy discussion – feedback style activity. As I’m writing this I’m thinking another version of this might be to blank out the word from the headline so they have to guess which word fits, but I suppose that’s a task for a slightly different aim.

8. How does this link?

Making this slide did make me panic that I had gone back ten years and was creating one of my early career ENGAGING opening starters (if Mr Birling was one of these biscuits, which would he be and why?) … but then I gave myself a shake and decided that there could be some real quality discussion over this. Lots of variations obviously: give them one word and they can rank the images, give them no words and they have to explain the images using the vocabulary list, give them fewer images …. the world (Google image) is your oyster.

9. How many words?

This is just your age-old morphology lesson disguised as students coming up with words. But then obviously you just give them the words and discuss them (second slide), because that’s the quicker way to arrive at learning.

10. Can you sort the word?

Lastly this is essentially an examples/non-examples models style task. Students sort the examples into whether they fit the word or don’t fit the word (bit of pair work, classic) and then we go through each one with a quick show of hands and then get people to justify one way or the other. Then, if needed, I can explain why it is/ isn’t an example.

Hopefully something there is useful. Now what you’re really here for – a free resource. (Disclaimer again – I use the fonts anitypewriter and KGlegohouse and to be frank since this “quick thread” has turned into a “quick blog” and then a long post I have not made them format friendly – it’s probably quicker to just download the fonts to be fair.

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