"Tangled" Up in Vocabulary

How do you get students hooked on words? Act out the word? Show a picture? Play a video? Any way to have students experience a word beyond a simple definition can help them move the meaning of the word into memory.

Imagine the word "tangled." Think about what new meanings students may generate after watching this short video clip. Or think about how this movie clip may engage students differently.

Once students are hooked into the word, further learning and exploration can begin. We use an Academic Vocab Notebook for some of our students. The goal of our Academic Vocabulary Notebook is to get students to "own" the words. Use them! Play with them! Weave them into their writing.


For each story that students read from our reading series, we pick two words. Two words that are more like Tier 2 words. Words that have multiple meanings and can be used in different contexts. Click on the image above to see the template that is tweaked for each word.

To begin our word study, we talk about the pronunciation and different forms of the words. This is a great place to add any new forms that might be discovered later on. The goal is not to learn the word once, but to recycle and revisit the words often. It also is a place to discuss prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Moving along, we talk about synonyms, antonyms, and the definitions. Once again, students can revisit and add other words to their pages as they become more proficient in using the words. Rather than spending time looking up the definitions of these words up, students are given the information so they can begin to develop a foundational understanding of the words and add to their understanding through experiences.

As a class, discussion focuses on the part labeled, "In-class examples..." Students can work independently, then with a partner, and then as a class to build a broader sense of understanding of the word through multiple lenses. To continue to explore the word, the first question of the bottom three questions is used. Students work on it independently and then share their thoughts. Misconceptions can be clarified; and elaboration of understanding can be encouraged.  This concludes the guided portion of the Academic Notebook.

If you notice on the template, there are three stars. These are the sections that students complete independently throughout the week. The picture focuses on the visual understanding of the word. Students love to draw! Students are encouraged to look beyond the obvious. Then students move to the bottom two questions with stars. These are not intended to be rote recall. These questions are designed to require students to play with the words once again through multiple lenses and apply their understanding.

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