Top 10 Tips for Teaching New Vocabulary Words

Vocabulary is an important part of nearly any subject. Students need to develop their vocabulary base to fully communicate and comprehend a topic. As they learn how to use more vocabulary properly, you will see an improvement in their writing and speaking.

Unfortunately, new vocabulary is not always fun to learn. Worksheets and homeschool worksheets will only go so far, and many students find them to be tedious and boring. The default way of explaining vocabulary is to give a definition, but this does not always work efficiently because of the lack of context clues. Here are ten other ways to explain vocabulary that you can work into your teacher worksheets.

1. Synonyms: These can be effective since they build on words and phrases that students already recognize. Adjectives often have several symptoms, and phrasal verbs will usually have a non-phrasal verb equivalent. Use caution that you do imply that all the words have exactly the same meaning, since different words often are used for different connotations or to imply different meanings.

2. Antonyms: Like synonyms, antonyms build on words or phrases that students already know. At lower levels, you can use words like rich and poor. However, this does not work for all advanced vocabulary lessons, since rich actually has more meanings than "having a lot of money." For older students, prefixes and suffixes are also helpful.

3. Drawing: For visual students, drawing can be a fun medium to explain vocabulary. You do not have to be a perfect artist - stick figures and basic sketches will often work well. You can even have students do their own drawings, which further reinforces their understanding of the vocabulary.

4. Rankings: If you have several gradable words to introduce at the same, you can introduce them together on a scale. For instance, you can use frequency, such as always-often-occasionally. Or you can do emotions in this way, with cheerful-happy-joyous-ecstatic.

5. Cuisenaire Rods: This is another tactic to help visual students. You can use different colored rods to symbolize different types of words, such as prepositions, verbs, or adjectives.

6. Pictures: Some words work well with pictures, particularly nouns. This can also be a good way to introduce blocks of related words, which is often utilized in foreign language classes, such as nouns and verbs related to the classroom or the house. Pictures can also be used in printable worksheets and flashcards, where pictures are matched to the word they represent.

7. Mime: Miming works well with younger students. You can mime out emotions and everyday activities to teach new words.

8. Sound: Sound can be an easy way to illustrate words that describe sounds, such as whistle, scratching, and tinkling. You can make the sounds yourself, or bring in tapes or CDs for students to listen to and write down the words that they hear.

9. Total physical response: This works well with young students or students studying a foreign language to help introduce them to new concepts. After explaining new vocabulary, you can then ask the students to perform the actions. This can work with simple words like blink or sneak, or more complex ones like eat a sandwich or read a book.

10. Reality: When it is convenient, bringing in the actual item can help students remember the word better and allows for a hands-on experience. You can also use this to introduce step-by-step concepts, like how to play a card game or run a computer program.

How you choose to teach vocabulary depends upon your preferences and your class' learning style. By alternating in different teaching techniques, you will be able to help students remember new vocabulary words better.