February 23, 2013

Taking the Mystery out of Vocabulary Study

Two Freebies and a Fun Game!

Vocabulary development is essential at every grade level, and that importance is reflected in the Common Core State Standards. As students build stronger vocabularies, they are better able to comprehend what they read and express themselves in writing. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to find vocabulary lessons that are motivating and fun for students.

So I'd like to share two strategies that worked well for me in the classroom, as well as a new game called Mystery Vocabulary Detectives. Hopefully you'll find that there's no mystery to injecting a little excitement into vocabulary-building activities.

Vivid Vocabulary Anchor Chart
I love reading aloud to kids, and read-aloud sessions offer a great opportunity to introduce students to challenging and interesting vocabulary. To keep track of the words you discuss with your students, try posting a laminated "Vivid Vocabulary" anchor chart on your wall. Each day when reading aloud, stop a few times to record and discuss new words.

If you have a document camera, place the book under the camera and ask students to help figure out the meanings of new words by the context clues around them. Then the next day, before you begin reading aloud, do a quick review of the previous day's words.

You can download the chart above to use as a model for creating your own anchor chart. Or you can print it out and give it to your students so they may keep their own private Vivid Vocabulary Charts. You can download this freebie from my Spelling and Vocabulary Resources page.

Vocabulary Foldable Freebie
To provide more intensive vocabulary practice, try choosing five words from the chart or from other content areas and having your students create a vocabulary foldable using those words. You can download a free template and directions for the foldable shown here from my Balanced Literacy page.

Students write one word on each flap and draw a symbol or illustration of that word. Then they lift each flap and write the word's definition and a sentence using the word underneath. These foldables serve as a handy tool for studying new words, and they also make a great literacy center activity.

 Mystery Vocabulary Detective game from Laura Candler - Fun way to practice vocabulary in any subject area!
Mystery Vocabulary Detectives
The first two activities are excellent strategies for teaching vocabulary, but I also want to share with you a game that's not only effective but downright FUN! It's an exciting fast-paced word game called Mystery Vocabulary Detectives that can be used in almost any subject area.

In this game, students become detectives and guess the meanings of words based on clues given by an "eyewitness." The game can be customized with your own content-specific words, or you can use one of the prepared sets that comes with this product. And it's more than just a fun game; Mystery Vocabulary Detectives is aligned with Common Core State Standards in grades 4 through 6.

Field Tested and Kid Approved
Since I'm no longer in the classroom, I asked several 4th and 5th grade teachers to test Mystery Vocabulary Detectives with their students. I waited anxiously to hear the verdict, and I was thrilled to find out the game was a huge hit with my student field-testers! One student said, "This game rocks!" and another reported, "It was awesome to the tenth power!" In addition, several teachers told me that their students are now begging to play the game in every content area! High praise indeed for a vocabulary game ... what more could a teacher want?


  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I am working with my 4-year-old and tutoring a second grader, and these will help tremendously.

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