Ideas to To Spice Up Vocabulary Work

Moving school districts means that this year I have had to create new ways for my students
to work with the vocabulary. One thing with Storytown I have come to love is the Intervention series vocabulary matches the grade level vocabulary. The teachers have also requested that I run one week ahead of them. This is nice because students work through the vocabulary with me before they have to do it in class. I can help students understand with word with examples but also they can practice how to apply the word using the story as a background. I also have to make sure that I give real life or real world examples of the word—in most cases these are words that they will come across in middle school but will never use with writing or in a conversation. (Which doesn't help them with text access.)

  • Tally-Ho!-Display the vocabulary word card. Add a tally mark beside the word each time a student uses the vocabulary word in conversation.
  • May I Have Your Autograph?-Display an enlarged print vocabulary word card. Allow students to autograph the card each time they use the vocabulary word in conversation.
  • Vocabulary String-Scan and print the cover of each book from which vocabulary words are pulled. Attach a kite “tail” of string, yarn, ribbon, etc. to the cover. Print out vocabulary word cards and glue each card on the tail. Allow student to write their name on a clothespin and clip it to the word card each time they use the word in conversation.
  • Don’t Lose Your Marbles!-Display the vocabulary word on the outside of a small jar. Add a marble to the jar each time a student uses the vocabulary word in conversation.
  • Stick With It!-Display the vocabulary word card. Each time a student uses the vocabulary word in conversation, have him add a small sticker to the card.
  • Just Scrolling Along!-On a computer that is visible to students, set the screensaver to scrolling text and type in the vocabulary words and/or definitions. Set the screensaver to come on after 5 minutes or so.
  • Rock On!-Make a vocabulary jar by gluing a vocabulary word card to the outside of a jar. Allow students to drop a rock in the jar each time they use the vocabulary word in conversation.
  • Vocabulary Vine-Make a crepe paper vine to wind across the walls in your classroom. Cut out leaves and write a vocabulary word on each leaf. Attach the leaves to your vine and watch students’ vocabulary grow!
  • Word Wizard-Purchase clear name badges. Write the vocabulary word on a card. Slide the card into the badge holder. Allow a student to be the “Word Wizard”. He will wear the vocabulary word and should use the word throughout the day.
  • Chain, Chain, Chain!-Cut out construction paper chain links. Each time a student uses a vocabulary word in conversation, have him write the vocabulary word on the link and add it to the chain. The chain will hang straight down from the ceiling. Display this poem:
For all the vocabulary words you say,
You’ll add another link today.
And when the chain and floor do meet,
(Teacher’s Name) will bring us each a treat!

  • Vocabulary Pop!-Set a large jar on the counter. Each time a student uses a vocabulary word, drop a small handful of popcorn kernels in the jar. When the jar is full, have a popcorn party.
  • Movin’ On!-Take a piece of yarn the width of your classroom and hang it above you. The yarn should start on one side of the room and stretch across it horizontally to attach to the other side of the classroom. On the far side, attach a blown up balloon. (Before blowing up the balloon, slip a piece of paper inside with the treat to be given written on it—class homework pass, 5 minutes extra recess, etc.) Attach a sign that says “Our vocabulary is moving on!” with a gym clip. Each time a student uses a vocabulary word, move the sign a bit toward the balloon. When the sign reaches the balloon, pop the balloon and read the prize. You can then start over with a new balloon and a new secret prize.

Here some ideas that I have used with my students that are more aligned with their learning styles. Most of these I have students do at home for practice. This gives them the chance to pick how they want to practice the words. It works great with spelling as well.

  • Backwards Words- Write your words forwards, then backwards.
  • Silly sentences -Use all your words in ten sentences.
  • Picture words – Draw a picture and write your words in the picture.
  • Words without Vowels – Write your words replacing all vowels with a line.
  • Words without Consonants – Write your words replacing all consonants with a line.
  • Story words – Write a short story using all your words.
  • Scrambled words –Write your words, then write them again with the letters mixed up.
  • Ransom words – Write your words by cutting out letters in a newspaper or magazine and glue them on a paper.
  • Pyramid Words – Write your words adding or subtracting one letter at a time. The result will be a pyramid shape of words.
  • Words-in-words – Write your word and then write at least 2 words made from each.
  • Good Clean Words –Write your words in shaving cream on a counter or some other surface that can be cleaned safely.
  • Etch-A-Word – Use an Etch- A-Sketch to write your words.
  • Secret Agent Words – Number the alphabet from 1 to 26, then convert your words to a number code.
  • Popsicles – Make words using popsicle sticks.
  • Newspaper Words – Search a newspaper page from top to bottom, circling each letter of a word as you find it.
  • Silly String – With a long length of string, “write” words using the string to shape the letters.
  • Backwriting – Using your finger, draw each letter on a partners’ back, having the partner say the word when completed.
  • Choo-Choo Words – Write the entire list end-to-end as one long word, using different colors of crayon or ink for different words.
  • Other Handed – If you are right-handed, write with your left, or vice versa.
  • Cheer your words – Pretend you are a cheerleader and call out your words! Sometimes you’ll yell, sometimes you’ll whisper.
  • Reversed words – Write your words in ABC order - backwards!
  • ABC order- Write your words in alphabetical order.
  • Puzzle words – Use a blank puzzle form. Write your words on the form, making sure that the words cross over the pieces. Then cut them out (color if you wish) and put them in a baggie with your name on it.
  • Pasta Words – Write your words by arranging alphabet pasta or Alphabits.
  • Sound Words – Use a tape recorder and record your words and their spelling. Then listen to your tape, checking to see that you spelled all the words correctly.
  • 3D words – Use modeling clay rolled thinly to make your words. Bring a note if done at home.
  • Dirty Words – Write your words in mud or sand.
Have a great week with your family. I hope these ideas help are we are looking for new ways to spice up vocabulary work.


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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