Six Vocabulary Strategies for the Classroom

slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to twowritingteachers blog team for hosting this wonderful event!

Find Someone Who

Students choose two or three words they would like to explore and take their notebooks on a clipboard to travel around and find out more about their words by finding someone who can give them more information. This activity can be used as part of a unit review.

Find someone who:

  1. – can define the word.
  2. – can give an example of the word.
  3. – can describe the word.
  4. – can compare the word with something.
  5. – can give a word that means the same thing as this word. (Synonym)
  6. – can give a word that means the opposite of this word. (Antonym)
  7. – can tell how many syllables are in the word.
  8. – can use the word in a sentence.
  9. – can tell who might use this word in the real world. (A cook, a scientist, an architect, an astronomer)
  10. – can tell its part of speech. (verb, adjective, noun)

Creating Adjective Word Wheels:  Antonyms and Synonyms

Create word wheels for words.  Each word can have a wheel for synonyms on one side and antonyms on the reverse side. Here are some examples:

Boring: dull, uninteresting, humdrum, tiresome, monotonous, tedious, fatiguing, wearisome
Boring: interesting, exciting, fascinating, appealing, engrossing, engaging, absorbing, entertaining

Dirty: filthy, grimy, unclean, unsanitary, polluted, soiled, dingy, grubby
Dirty: clean, sterile, unsoiled, spotless, stainless, unstained, unblemished, washed, cleansed

Try out these adjectives in pairs or small group:   sad, brave, bright, wet, foolish, mean, common, complete, rich, nervous, delicious, calm, eager, famous, fake, funny, good, important, heavy, great, grand, loud, many, safe, plain, polite, neat, ready, smart, wild, stubborn, strange, sick, shy, violent, wrong, thin, old, polite, rough, pretty

Color Mystery

 Use your color list to complete this activity.

  1. If you were writing a mystery in which someone had stolen a priceless antique car, perfume bottle, vase, ring, or transferware (choose one):
  • What color(s) would it be?
  • What color green would you make it?
  • Would you make it banana yellow?  Why or why not?
  1. List three things that might be called banana yellow (other than the obvious choice!).
  2. If the hero or heroine of your story had green eyes, which green would you use?
  3. What color would his or her hair be?
  4. Try writing a parody of a heroic description, using any colors you wish. For example, it is one thing to say a woman’s teeth are as white as pearls.  It is quite another thing to say her teeth are as white as antique ivory or faded linen sheets. (For older students, examine Sonnet #18 Shakespeare and write one with the class.)

For adult reading, there’s Primary Colors by Alexander Theroux – his three essays devoted to the colors red, blue, and yellow include every color allusion imaginable: artistic, literary, linguistic, botanical, cinematic, scientific, culinary, climatologial, and lots more.  Here’s a sample: Theroux points out that these things are yellow: the sun, cowardice, third prize, honey, school buses, urine, New Mexico license plates, Penzzoil, Easter, butter, and arsenic.  The sequel is titled Secondary Colors.

Vocabulary Visual Assignment

  • On a clean sheet of paper to turn in, create a visual representation of one vocabulary word.
  • Word, part of speech, definition and IMAGE
  • 10 points: neatness, accuracy, creativity (color)

Directions for Classroom Use:

Hang up these illustrations so that we can all see them and study for the quiz by looking at everyone’s visual representations of the word.

Use construction paper, or computer paper. You may also use loose leaf paper if there are no frayed edges or torn pieces.

Your vocabulary visual should look like you put some effort into this work and tried to be thoughtful and original.


  1. Distribute words to student teams.
  2. Tell students that each member should learn the assigned words and then decide on the best action or pantomime to teach the word to the group.
  3. Once students become confident about the vocabulary terms, tell them to teach their words to the rest of the group.  Have them follow these directi
    1. Show the word to the group and have them repeat it.
    2. Act out the word to the group and have them repeat it.
    3. Check for understanding – ask the students if they have any questions about the word.

When all the students feel confident about the words learned, call out each word.  Instruct the students to do the learned action while repeating the word and meaning. Some examples for kinesthetic vocabulary across the curriculum:  solar, nucleus, respiration, theory, colony, treaty, banned, monarch, trapezoid, unequal, parallel, perpendicular

Vocabulary Graphics

 This strategy and its variations ask students to create an illustration for the word they are learning which appeals to the visual/spatial intelligence.

  1. Give the students 5 x 7 index cards upon which to record their findings.
  2. Instruct students to use their background knowledge, information from the text, glossary, or a dictionary to determine the definition.
  3. Have students write the word and its definition in the center of the card.
  4. Tell the students to record the following information in each of the card’s four corners:
  5. a sentence using the word
  6. a synonym for the word
  7. an antonym for the word
  8. an illustration that represents the word. (The illustration should have some personal meaning for them.)
  9. You can hook the index cards together with a binder ring so they can become a permanent part of the student vocabulary file.

For a variation of the Vocabulary Graphics strategy, advise students to record the information on a plastic transparency or newsprint.  When complete, ask the students to present their graphics to the class, explaining the relation to the word and its significance to them.   This strategy fosters verbal/linguistic, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences as well.


6 thoughts on “Six Vocabulary Strategies for the Classroom

  1. I love all of these activities, but my favorite is the color idea. What a great way to get us thinking about specificity. I don’t have Theoux’s book(s). I’ll have to look them up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are great activities, Lynne. They really get students thinking about word choice and the subtle differences that can hugely impact what they write. When I was teaching I loved doing adjective activities with my students to get them to see that there are many choices for the word they want to use – some better and some not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you, Shelly! You are always doing amazing things with your kindergarten students! I miss being in your class. I will stop by in April with the new book, Welcome to Writing Workshop. Glad you are here on Slice. I will have to find you. I always post in the morning before I leave.

      Liked by 1 person

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