Today I am sharing an effective way of building student vocabulary during our Teacher Talk linky hosted by myself and One Sharp Bunch. Each month, we will be sharing our teacher tips and tricks on different subjects related to the classroom.
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Building Student Vocabulary with Theme Words
I have been using theme words to build student vocabulary for a few years now. I have seen growth with the system I have begun. Students are able to learn new words and use them throughout our lessons. They listen to those words read in books. They illustrate them and they write about them. They share and talk about them. They understand them.
At the beginning of any new theme (topic, unit, holiday, or celebration) we make a class set of theme word cards. For each new theme, I type the important words out, print them and enlarge the standard paper to 11″x 17″ paper, and slice them in half to make 2 long strips of paper with a word at the top.
Students are each given their own word card to illustrate. I prefer to pass these words out randomly in order for students to have a word they may not understand. In their small groups, they take turns sharing their word and discussing its meaning with their group members. This helps them think about what they might include in their illustration.
For holiday and celebration theme words, children often have an easier time illustrating the word because they are words that they understand. After each student has drawn (with a pencil) their picture and coloured it, they each have a minute or so to share it with the class.
After all the words are completed and shared, we put them in our theme word pocket chart. This becomes a place we refer to during our writing activities, journals or writer’s workshop, and during our thematic units and lessons. Children have the words readily available and they are able to use them as needed. This is where we keep our words until it is time to make a new set of word cards for another theme.
After they come down from the pocket chart, I hole-punch them and place them on rings. These rings can be hung or placed in a basket for students to refer to during writing or other activities. It is exciting for children to refer back to the words they have learned.
I also use this activity during our science units. When we begin to learn something new, we create a set of theme word cards to learn the words that many of us have not encountered before. I take this opportunity to introduce students to understanding text features and using a glossary.
Students work in partners to locate their new word in the glossary of a non-fiction book. I make sure to find plenty of non-fiction books that have glossaries of the given words inside.
They must work together to write the definition given in the glossary at the top of their theme word card. They must read it aloud together and ask questions if they need clarification from me. Once they understand their word and have written it on sheet, they decide how they will illustrate it. They work together to draw a detailed representation of the word and colour it.
This is a great way for students to develop a deeper understanding of a new topic. You can see that students are busy learning about whales, are reading and experiencing non-fiction books, and developing their whale vocabulary.
Students hold up their words for the class to see and experience. The rest of the class is encouraged to ask questions and share thoughts. We have an open discussion about the new vocabulary. After we post and refer to our words often during our lessons.
Putting children at the center of building their vocabulary has immense value. Children are able to use the new vocabulary daily throughout lessons and activities. Taking the time to create and learn theme words builds fluency and understanding.
I include theme words in many of my units in my store. They are included in all of my science and thematic units and writing packs to help build student vocabulary. To see all of the products with theme word cards, click the image below.
If you are looking for more great ideas on building student vocabulary, check out the Pinterest board below!
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