50 Things You Can Do To Embed Vocabulary Into Training


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There are lots of ways to teach and learn new and unfamiliar words. Here’s a list of 50. None of these are new or any kind of rocket science.

All 50 are ways of explicitly teaching vocabulary.

It’s also possible to learn vocabulary through exposure to new vocabulary incidentally. But that’s another thing altogether.

For every item below, you can probably think of several variations. Feel free to post them here as well for others to see.

Also, for every item on the list you could apply it in the following ways:

  • It’s something you do as the teacher, trainer, or facilitator so it becomes part of a sequence of activities that you deliver in a training environment.
  • It’s something you make your learners do with you (or even independently of you) in a training context.
  • Something you do as you design content for yourself or others to use when they deliver training.

Here’s the list:

  1. Brainstorm a bank of technical or relevant high-frequency words for a given category.
  2. Adapt or select from an existing word bank or list of high-frequency words.
  3. Categorise and prioritise words using the Learning Progressions.
  4. Categorise and prioritise words using high-frequency word lists.
  5. Categorise words using semantic groups or categories.
  6. Create contextualised mini-assessments for pre and post testing.
  7. Brainstorm, mind map, and discuss to activate prior knowledge.
  8. Make flash cards.
  9. Make word + plain-English explanation matching activities.
  10. Make word +plain English explanation + example matching activities.
  11. Focus on spelling words people don’t know by using “look, cover, write.”
  12. Focus on decoding words people can’t read aloud by identifying syllables and intonation or word stress.
  13. Complete the word using only first few letters as a prompt.
  14. Complete the sentence using a cloze (gap fill), or partial cloze activity.
  15. Complete the sentence giving two possible correct but different answers.
  16. Write own example sentences using unfamiliar words.
  17. Write own definitions for new or unfamiliar words.
  18. Collaborate with others to write a paragraph using new words.
  19. Complete the definitions.
  20. Pull apart words and look at the meanings of the parts (etymology).
  21. Match synonyms (words that have the same meaning).
  22. Match antonyms (words that have the opposite meaning).
  23. Choose all the possible answers from a list or multiple choice.
  24. Match a word with a context or scenario.
  25. Give an incorrect sentence and ask others to correct the mistake.
  26. Label a picture or diagram.
  27. Cross out a word that doesn’t belong with others in a group.
  28. Create a diagram or a framework for a group of words, concepts or process.
  29. Sort words on a scale or cline.
  30. Identify pairs of words that are similar but different and explain.
  31. Identify which words are slang or not from a group of words.
  32. Discuss connotations for similar words.
  33. Learn strategies for using a dictionary.
  34. Guess an unfamiliar word meaning from context.
  35. Find the words in a text that match a set of given definitions.
  36. Look at different meanings for familiar words.
  37. Identify cause and effect in a text.
  38. Identify opposites or contrasts in a text.
  39. Identify word type (noun, verb, adjective).
  40. Identify synonyms or paraphrases.
  41. Identify examples.
  42. Ask people to “Look for words that mean X”.
  43. Act out the word and make others guess the meaning.
  44. Describe the word without using the word (or a given set of words) and make others guess the meaning.
  45. Draw a picture that represents the word and make others guess.
  46. Make a crossword.
  47. Make a word find.
  48. Adapt a well-known card game.
  49. Adapt a well-known board game.
  50. Dictate a passage to others and make them reconstruct it collaboratively.

Also, for anything on this list you’re going to want to encourage lots of discussion and talking about the process.

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