Tips For Teaching Vocabulary
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
The key to any great lesson is being able to remove barriers to make the learning accessible to the learners. One of the biggest barriers we face in primary education is limited vocabulary. Children are like sponges! Let's use this to our benefit to teach young children the correct terminology early.
So how do we go about doing this? Here are some suggestions...
1. Place a key vocabulary slide into every lesson.
At the start of each lesson, whether it is Reading, Maths, Science, Geography, make sure you display any tricky or new vocabulary on your board. You may make a PowerPoint slide, SMART Notebook slide, or simply have a set of subject colour coded cards, but regardless of which way you do it, it will help to remove any vocabulary barriers and help make the learning accessible. Make going through vocabulary a routine to have impact.
2. Have a word wall.
At my school we make a conscious decision to display vocabulary in the classroom. I personally allow the children to decide if words should go on the word wall. Some may choose to put a word on the wall because they think it is simply impressive (yes - they do get impressed by words!) and others may want to choose to put a word on the wall because they want to use it in their work.
3. Chant it, sing it, play with it.
Children need to hear words at least 15-20 times before they will start to remember it. Get your pupils to say, sing or chant newly taught words back to you, their learning partners, the class teddy, or even the windows, walls and other classroom furniture! It's silly but they love it.
4. Keep your expectations high.
Believe me. Children can learn new technical words. Do not avoid it. If you are unsure of what technical vocabulary to teach your children discuss with the English Leads in your school - or drop me an email! At our school each subject lead categorised key vocabulary for their subject by year group based on the topics. We have words the children must know and are likely to be familiar with, the next level are new words we want to encourage children to use, especially in writing, and lastly there are words that are related but are very technical and only in rare examples would the pupils use them. When planning your lessons just have a think about which words are familiar and which words you are going to teach specifically to that lesson.
5. Engage your parents.
Children love being able to teach parents things that will impress them. If a Year 2 child goes home and explains what a subtrahend and minuend are their parents will most certainly be impressed! Some parents may not have heard some of the technical vocabulary before and it is our duty to help parents teach their children at home. By adding key topical vocabulary to things you send home, such as curriculum overviews, it will include your parents in the learning journey.
Please write to me if you try and test out any of these tips. I'd love to hear about your experience.