Teachers frequently mention that students have a limited vocabulary. A fantastic Stage 3 team that I have the privilege of working with decided to take up this challenge. Their ESL teacher had already prepared sets of word and definition cards on the current topic for each class. These sets had been used for matching activities. These teachers raised the engagement of students and the usage of this vocab by adding a photo for each definition and posting the word, picture and definition on the wall. To build student knowledge the teachers started to play ‘word wall bingo’ on a daily basis. Simple game – each student chooses and records five words from the word wall. The teacher then calls out random words on display until someone shouts ‘Bingo!’
As the students grew more confident in their knowledge of the vocabulary on display, the game was modified by the teacher calling out the definition instead of the word. Memory games were played on the IWB using the Smart Notebook tool ‘Flippers’ with the words on the top half of the board and the definitions on the lower half.
The teachers went further by adding ‘use of technical vocabulary’ to the success criteria for speaking and writing tasks. After only a few days teachers observed that the use of technical vocabulary was greatly increased. After two weeks it had gone through the roof. Simple, practical and only time consuming the first time. For heaps more information on building vocabulary you can start with this link to Marzano’s great 6-Step Process for Building Academic Vocabulary.