Words-of-the-Day Vocabulary

Research has shown that pupils need to encounter a new word 10 to 16 times in order to really ‘learn it’. When introducing new vocabulary, pupils need to get the opportunity to practice these new words and use them.

I spoke at the IPPN Conference 2020 about the importance of Oral Language and ‘Closing the Word Gap’. For more information on The Word Gap see http://www.julieannedevlin.com/why-is-oral-language-important/

For this reason, I like teaching vocabulary based on a theme rather than isolated words, picked at random. I find, especially in a multigrade classroom, (maybe with each class getting a different word from their text reader, for example) that I never use the word again. It doesn’t get used by the pupils or transferred onto their writing and thus the new vocabulary gets lost.

This pattern of learning theme-based Words of the Day can be found in my Aistear by eduhub.ie resource and also Language For Living (Tip of the Tongue) by TTS. In this post, various activities, tips and games are discussed to enable pupils to practise their new words.

Word-of the Day Activities

  1. Each day the teacher can present the Word-of-the-day inviting children to discuss the word, use dictionaries and put the words into sentences. Encourage the use of the word throughout the day written and orally. Display the word.

2. Recent words-of-the-day display: When covering a topic area such as ‘the jungle’, display the new word each day, perhaps in your language corner, so by the end of the three weeks all words are displayed ready to be used for oral discussion/ creating a story about ‘the jungle’. They can also be revised each day easily to ensure pupils remember them and retain them to long term memory.  

3. Word of the day poster: Display a poster at pupil’s level on which one pupil writes the Word-of-the-day each day. When the poster is full of words don’t throw it out but place a new poster over it (or display elsewhere). This way when pupils are writing stories they can lift the new poster (like a flip chart) to check for older Words-of-the-day. Pupils love being independent and finding the words themselves. I find covering the poster with clear contact paper gives it longevity.

4. Class dictionary: You can use a blank A4 Hard back copy to record class words. You can label the corners A-Z leaving a few pages for each letter. The students can take turns to record the word and its meaning each day. The class dictionary and word poster should be on display and available to pupils to access their words.  

5.Word-of-the-day logbook: Likewise, the pupils can use a copy/ notebook to log their Word-of-the-day, its meaning and write a sentence using it. E.g. In the T page, they can record their word-of-the-day.

Tedious: (adjective) Long and boring.

My chores were very tedious.

This book can be used to record other vocabularies they come across e.g. during reading. When playing games using the vocabulary such as ‘vocabulary block’ (see earlier post ‘Tips for Teaching Vocabulary), they can check their logbook if they have forgotten the meaning to a word.

6. Using the ‘class words’ container: Sometimes for a change, you could use a ‘class words’ container (empty tub of some sort) and invite pupils to find words they think would be interesting and after they write them on slips of paper, place them into the empty ‘class words’ container. These words can be looked at using the visualiser and whiteboard with the whole class or give words to each group to discuss and search using dictionaries. Sometimes these words tend to get ‘lost’ if not practised or used in follow up activities

Games you can play to reinforce new words using Word-of-the-day cards

1.Vocabulary Block (See post ‘Tips for Teaching Vocabulary)

  • Linking sentences: When the pupils have covered a lot of the words-of-the-day, you can use them to have a game with the pupils. Working in groups with three of the new Words-of-the-Day each they have to try and create a sentence using all three words.  They can try and link all their sentences together in each group to tell a short story which can be retold back to the whole class.
  • What is the word?: Divide the class into groups. Each group receives a Word-of-the-Day card previously taught. They have to give clues to the word such as definitions, sentences leaving out the mystery word, pictures, mime, Synonyms etc. The first group to guess the correct word receives a point.
  • Class quiz: Sort the class into groups. Divide all word-of-the-day covered amongst each group. E.g. each group might get 15 words. Groups can sort themselves into jobs such as reporter, recorder, timekeeper, helper etc. Each group record their words and put a simple meaning or sentence next to the word. The first group to have all their words completed correctly are the winners.
  • The ‘words-of-the-day’ cards could be used as an activity for pupils finished work early.

Pupils can take five words taught in class, each leaving the other words (on flashcards) they know in a bundle on the table.

  1. They turn the cards over so they can’t see the words.
  2. Each takes a turn turning a card word side up which they have to put into a sentence.
  3. If the sentence doesn’t make sense (i.e. word not understood), they have to place card to base pile and take another card.
  4. If the pupils give a correct sentence, they return the card to the base pile but don’t collect another.
  5. The first player with no cards wins. Pupils should be encouraged to refer to their logbook if having any difficulties

Each Language for Living (Tip of the Tongue) box contains hundreds of theme-based Words of the Day with corresponding Vocabulary Sheets to encourage further discussion on the theme using the pupils’ new vocabulary. You can then use the vocabulary sheet to help pupils write a story using the new vocabulary they have learned. This involves a lot of oral work and preparation which the pupils enjoy. It also leaves them well prepared with ideas and vocabulary which can be extended into written work to follow whatever type of writing genre you may be covering in class.

ADAPTATIONS: The vocabulary story sheets contain a variety of enriching vocabulary to suit different abilities; easier vocabulary for those with learning difficulties and more challenging vocabulary for the exceptionally able. The vocabulary story sheets also cater to the different levels in a multigrade classroom where both older and younger pupils will be challenged and gain from the sheets and new vocabulary.

Sample ‘Rescue’ themed words of the Day and accompanying ‘Rescue’ Vocabulary sheet you can try in your classroom form ages 8 upwards.

Language for Living Word of the Day themes:

Junior box: 16 topics
Circus
Halloween
Pirate adventure
A storm
The farm
Castles/ royalty
Camping
Beach
The funfair
Underwater adventure
Fire
Accident
Shopping
Party
Holiday  

Middle box: 18 topics Rescue
Robbery
Fantasy
Halloween
Night out/ dance
A snowy day
A storm
Earthquake
Space mission
Ocean adventure
Ancient Egypt
Zoo
Seaside
Pirate adventure
Villains & crime
Enchanted Castle
Festival
Jungle  

Senior box: 18 topics
Haunted house/ castle
Volcano
Investigation & interrogation
Travelling
Shipwrecks
Forest/ house fire
Night Adventure
The desert
Sporting event
Camping
Birthday/ party
A storm
Cave exploration
A sea voyage
Space/ alien adventure
Sporting event
Enchanted forest   
Language for Living ‘Words of the Day’ themes

Samples of pupils writing incorporating their new vocabulary

Sample of 1st class pupil’s story writing. Words of the Day underlined. Page 1
Sample of 1st class pupil’s story writing. Words of the Day underlined. Page 2
Sample of 9 year old pupil’s story writing.
Samples of homework sentences incorporating new Words of the Day and Phrase of Day
Sample of 6 year old sentences incorporating new Words of the Day
Sample story by pupil aged 9 years who has used Words of the Day from Language for Living for the past three years

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