Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Vocabulary

Since the adoption of Common Core in the US, teaching vocabulary is no longer strictly the domain of the English-Language Arts classroom. This makes vocabulary a matter of standard and law, so it’s pretty important to make the most of vocab lessons. Here are some simple do’s and don’ts when it comes to teaching vocabulary. 

  1. DO help students come up with their own definitions. Studies show that students are much more likely to retain meaning this way, rather than if you have them simply copy dictionary definitions.
  2. DON’T have students copy over words multiple times. Instead, use creative strategies to engage students in word study, like coming up withvocabulary their own sentences or vocab games.
  3. DO use pictures and symbols to bring vocab words to life. They’ll make the lesson more interesting and more memorable for students. 
  4. DON’T assign overly long lists of words. Only six to eight words per week is recommended, so be selective about your vocab list.
  5. DO assess student use of vocab words through speaking and writing exercises. Matching tests show only memorization as opposed to understanding and ability.
  6. DON’T use “kid” language around students and allow them to use it back to you. It’s important to model the use of academic language at all times to set a high standard for language use–your students will rise to the occasion!


    Sample word wall

  7. DO use a word wall in classroom lessons and discussion. Having new words visually available at all times in the classroom encourages regular use by students. 
  8. DON’T spend too much language arts time having students work on vocab words individually. Instead, try to use and apply vocab words regularly and incorporate them into group work and other lessons throughout the day.
  9. DO allow as many opportunities as possible for reading a wide variety of books. This is the best way for students to discover new words of their own.

For more information on how the Common Core affects vocab learning, please visit their website by clicking here.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *