No matter what year or grade level you teach, helping your students to develop a wide vocabulary is one of our most important (and fun!) jobs. Words are everywhere, and we want to our students to be curious about words and to know how they work and what they mean.
One way I like to address this with my Foundation students is with an Interesting Words Journal.
It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a journal for interesting words.
Whenever we do a read aloud, or when we’re listening to conversations or watching a visual or video text, I encourage my students to stop and ask, “Hey, what does that word mean?” when they come across a word that’s unfamiliar or unknown to theme.
This usually prompts a lot of discussion.
And it’s wonderful.
Typically, I try and encourage the other students to explain what a word means – often they get pretty close to the meaning of a word on their own. Between them, my class – just like all of yours – brings a lot of prior knowledge. They may not know all the answers on their own, but collectively? They know a lot and they do a great job or working together to pool their knowledge to the betterment of all.
Once we’ve identified the word and explained the word we can add it to our Interesting Words Journal.
This journal is simply a scrapbook with a front cover and a page for each letter of the alphabet. We add the words under the correct letter. It’s often a great opportunity to review the previous interesting words as you add new ones.
We use these words a lot in oral language – we think of sentences to use them in (often the wackier the better!) and share them with our Turn and Talk Buddies. We write them down on the board. I also encourage students to use these new words in their own writing, too.
There’s a true power in committing these new words to paper in one place. My students truly remember them.
Earlier in the week, we read a story with a lot of ‘h’ words as part of our sound focus for the week. One of the words that came up was heartbroken. We had a discussion around what it meant (the most wonderful description being “heartbroken means you’re super sad!”) and we put it in our book.
At the end of the week we were exploring emotions and looking at photos of people displaying a range of different emotions. One card was a little girl who looked very sad and one of my students put her hand up and said, “She looks heartbroken,” and then went on to explain why she thought that.
It was a wonderful moment and a true testament to the power of building vocabulary with students.
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you. I’d love to hear your stories of the power of building vocabulary with students.
You can find a purchasable version on my TeachersPayTeachers store with lined and unlined options.
Until next time, happy teaching!