Introducing Robust Vocabulary in the Classroom

Hi everyone! I know many of you are already back to school or are preparing for students to arrive next week like I am. Today I wanted to share a great activity that I have used in my classroom to help build a stronger vocabulary for my students!



I'm sure many of you have seen or maybe even used "vivid verbs" in your room, but I have a great activity for introducing adjectives.

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Our school started a huge bullying prevention program a few years back, and part of the program included having morning meetings with your class at least once a week. It was tough to come up with meaningful discussions, plus I was frustrated to be losing instructional time. Then I found a solution from an edition of The Reading Teacher. It was an article about introducing more rigorous vocabulary in the classroom, and one of the ideas it mentioned was using simple compliments to teach synonyms. I loved this idea!

We would begin our morning meetings in a circle, so I asked students to look to their left and write one positive word to describe that person. Of course, many of them wrote words such as nice, funny, smart, etc. We went around the circle, and each person shared what they came up with. Then I gave the students an encyclopedia and encouraged them to find a synonym for that word that was more interesting. We shared those, and then I collected all of the words and made a bulletin board linking the "dull word" to its stronger companions. I searched my classroom high and low today to find a picture, but unfortunately I did this activity before I started blogging and saving everything AND when I was using my old computer that died at the end of that year. So I had to create a quick sample to share.


It's very simple, but the students were able to refer to it throughout the year not only for the morning meetings, but also in their writing. I really pushed them to avoid simple adjectives and find more creative ways to describe their peers. We had instances, of course, where students chose a synonym that didn't quite relate to what they were trying to describe, and I would address them as the students used the words. "Cool" was also a difficult word to find synonyms. In that case, I had the student describe what made their classmate "cool", and then we searched for a more appropriate term. Many times, it was something completely different, such as "athletic" that we found for the final adjective.

One other reason I like using the compliment circle is that it helps students recognize and connect with more appropriate character traits when they are reading. Many of my students have trouble coming up with the adjectives needed to describe characters. Through these meetings, hopefully students can begin to make those connections more easily!






8 comments

  1. Great activity and bulletin board idea to build vocabulary. It reminds me of my "Worn Out Words" activity to encourage students to use captivating instead of bland words when speaking and writing. 'Worn out' words are placed on a pair of old, ripped up jeans hanging in the classroom as a visual reminder. :)
    Literacy Loving Gals

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    1. I like the idea of putting them on a pair of jeans! I think that would stick with the kids for a while!

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  2. Love how this helps build a community in your classroom! What a great idea!

    Andrea
    Reading Toward the Stars

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    1. Thank you! The kids groaned about it at first ("I have to say something nice about her?"), but I think they enjoyed it!

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  3. Nice! I think I'm gonna use this lesson in my classroom. I like the idea of building that vocab in a meaningful way.

    Ali
    Teaching Powered by Caffeine

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  4. A really great app that I have used for brainstorming individually and with a group on the smartboard is Popplet. I love how user friendly it is, and my kids were able to print and refer to their "popplets" afterwards for writing. www.popplet.com

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    Replies
    1. I'll have to try that app out. I'm just starting to explore literacy apps for my kids. Hoping to get an iPad for my class this year!

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