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10 Top Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary and Making it Stick!

A guest blog by Zoe James, suggesting some great ideas to try when teaching vocabulary.

Teaching vocabulary is tricky. In my lessons, I find that it is usually those students that already have extensive vocabularies who soak up any new words while the others struggle to absorb the language at all.

A lot of new research is emphasising the critical importance of teaching vocabulary but how do we get students to understand new words, use new words and remember them? 

Here are 10 recommended strategies that are worth a try: 

1. Pre-teach new words before students encounter them in a text.

2. Teach only a few new words at a time.

3. Unpick the words’ structure (word roots/suffixes/ prefixes): it demystifies the new language.

4. Insist students use the words in class talk.

5. Teacher should frequently model use of the word/s in their discussions with the class.

6. Embed students understanding by asking them to list synonyms, antonyms, draw pictures of the words and write imaginative examples of the word being used.

7. Students should create a bank of new words with their definitions

8. Recap on new vocabulary frequently: in the next lesson, the next week, the next month and the next term!

9. Create tasks which enable students to group and categorise new vocabulary.  

10. Predict likely misconceptions that students will have: atmosphere in science is very different to atmosphere in English!

It would be good to hear about any strategies you try.

For a while I have been reflecting upon the importance and impact of the size of a student’s working vocabulary on learning.  I have no proof and no evidence but might be willing to suggest that the difference between a student making really strong progress and a student who is stuck may be the size, range and complexity of their working vocabulary.  It must be worth investing in trying to develop a student’s vocabulary when trying to support them in making accelerated progress……. I’m not sure I can see any disadvantages!






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