Concept Sort

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4

Objective: Sort content-specific vocabulary words into categories

What You Need: Vocabulary Connection Cards (see below), scissors

What to Do: Create a vocabulary list of 25–35 words connected with an upcoming unit of study. If the unit is on the American Revolution, you might have new words like monarchy and militia, as well as known words like colonies and taxes. Also include related words like fair and power, or even images to represent key concepts. Choose a large, legible font and type up the words on your list. Print enough copies for each group of three to four students to have a set, and cut them into individual cards.

Hand out cards and explain that all the words have something to do with the unit. Tell students they are free to organize the words in any way that makes sense (as a graphic organizer, in categories, etc.) by using what they know or think they know about the words. Emphasize there are no “right” answers; they should focus on being able to explain their thinking.

As students are working, don’t give in to the urge to answer their questions or correct misconceptions. Instead, ask something like “What does your group think about that?” If they have words they aren’t able to categorize, have them turn the words upside down and set them off to the side.

To finish, have groups take turns meeting with other groups to explain how, and why, they organized their cards the way they did. If there are words that seem unsortable to most or all of the groups, this will provide for a great whole-class discussion!

It’s a Mystery

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.7.6

Objective: Predict a unit of study and its objectives using Vocabulary Connection Cards

What You Need: Vocabulary Connection Cards, writing paper

What to Do: Prepare by creating Vocabulary Connection Cards, as explained in the lesson above. The words should be for an upcoming unit, as students will be making predictions about the new unit in this lesson.

Tell students they will be making predictions about the next unit of study. All they will have are cards related to the topic. (Some words will be familiar, others not.) Their job will be to use the cards as clues and  to guess the topic and objectives.

Have students work in small groups to organize the cards in a way that makes sense to them. They will then record the title of the unit as they predict it, along with what they expect the learning objectives to be. (If you wish to give prompts, consider providing objectives with the most important words missing.) Close by having kids share their predictions. Then, reveal the mystery topic and objectives.

Worth 1,000 Words

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.7.6

Objective: Make connections between new vocabulary words and images

What You Need: Vocabulary definition sheet, images, dictionary or textbook/handouts for unit of study, writing and chart paper, marker

What to Do: Another way to help students absorb new meanings is to associate each new word and definition with an image.

Before the lesson, prepare a sheet that lists vocabulary associated with your unit of study; it should have line spaces for definitions and printouts of images associated with each term. If you are doing a unit on world history, you might have an image of a cuneiform (a clay tablet with markings) as an example of record keeping.

Tell students they will help you come up with more kid-friendly definitions for the terms. Read the dictionary or textbook definition of a term and then have students suggest a more casual way to say it. Write it on chart paper and have students copy it onto their definition sheet.

Then, show students a series of pictures that represent one or more of the terms and have them discuss with a partner which term that image best represents. Be sure to choose some images that clearly illustrate a specific term and some that students could argue represent multiple terms. For example, you might show a photo of a worker sewing clothes, which could apply to both the terms specialized workforce and improved technology. As a fun challenge, have kids come up with their own images to illustrate the terms they’re learning!


Adapted from Conquering Content Vocabulary, by Chelsea Tornetto



Photo: Courtesy of Chelsea Tornetto

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