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February 19, 2014 10+ Resources to Expand Your Students' Vocabulary! By Erin Klein
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Expanding a child's vocabulary has such a positive impact on their overall academic performance. Often, vocabulary holds the meaning for the content they're digesting. Without understanding the words they're reading about, children often become lost in their stories and studies.  

    When I was growing up, my dad put such an emphasis on using powerful words. He often told my sister and me how important it was to use precise vocabulary to adequately convey our thinking so that others could better understand us. There was even a time in my childhood where my dad would have a "word of the day" that we would be encouraged to use as we were playing and going about our day. He made games out of teaching vocabulary and incorporated fun ways to make the words hold meaning.  

    I love reading Fancy Nancy stories to my children. I read them to my own two children, Jacob and Riley, and my students. Kids are naturally curious and enjoy taking in new information. They love trying out the new words and letting them roll of their tongues. They look so adorable testing out their new favorite words in context. After a little practice, they soon own those words and begin to naturally integrate them into their everyday conversations.  

    I'd like to share a few of my favorite vocabulary resources with you.  


    Picture Books

    This one seems simple. It is one of my favorite ways to share new words with my students. Because I love reading aloud, we share tons of stories throughout the year. Sometimes I share books for the enjoyment of listening to a great story. Other times I share a text with a specific purpose in mind or a lesson to teach.  

    Each time I read aloud, no matter my purpose, I can't help but notice when we stumble upon a word that truly fits the character or plot, elevating the story to a level we can better connect to and visualize. During the beginning of the year, I may make a comment aloud to call attention, briefly, to the word. However, towards the middle of the year, I intentionally make a big deal out of these powerful words. It never fails that through this guided conversation, one child chimes in with the brilliant idea that we could also use these words in our own writing. Genius! Of course, I take this remarkable idea and let it shape my next few writing workshop lessons.  

    As we begin to notice powerful words in our reading, the children become aware of the benefits of precise and rich vocabulary. We start to fall in love with words. By this time, we've collected so many wonderful words that we need a treasure chest to help us hold all of these gems so that we don't forget them. That's when we come up with the idea to create a "Words We Love" bulletin board.


    Bulletin Boards for Words

    You can see our "Words We Love" bulletin in the photo to the right.  It is nothing fancy, but it works. I like to keep it simple so that it is easy to add to. My only wish is that it was lower so that children could add to the board themselves. I just write "Words We Love" on a sentence strip and post it on the wall. I have a few pieces of square cork board to tack the words onto. I have a bunch of index cards and markers available for students to jot their powerful words on when they come across one in their reading. I love seeing how the students take ownership over these words and begin to use them in their writing and their oral language. When we have a few spare moments here and there, we refer to these words and talk about them. This time lends itself to a brief grammar lesson, too. We are able to sort the words by parts of speech and even add inflectional endings.  

    We also have two other bulletin boards that are up all year that focus on words. I have a "Phonics Dance" board for long vowel sounds, digraphs, and other sounds and a Word Wall for our core sight words. Every six days, we get a new group of spelling words. The children are introduced to ten new words. Five of the words are core sight words for second grade. The other five are words that follow a specific spelling pattern. Once we have studied those ten words for the six day cycle, they are added to either the Phonics Dance or Word Wall boards.  


    Professional Books

    There are so many wonderful books that focus on vocabulary development for students. I enjoy professional books that offer lesson ideas, resources, actual classroom examples, and road maps to guide planning. Below are a few of my favorite resources for teaching vocabulary.


    Websites and Interactives 

    I've compiled a list of online resources on my past class website. Click here to access.  

    For some other great ideas to help students build vocabulary, check out my fellow blogger Genia Connell's "12 Steps to Creating a Language-Rich Environment." What are some of your favorite resources for vocabulary? I invite you to check out Riley's 100's Day Project on words she loves!



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Susan Cheyney