Teaching Content Vocabulary

Techniques to help students understand and remember vocabulary.

For students to learn effectively, they need to understand and use the key topic vocabulary of a subject. Students must be able to understand the words that teachers use as they share information on a topic and also be able to use the specific vocabulary in their own oral and written language.

Studies have shown that if teachers spend time at the beginning of a lesson reviewing the vocabulary that will be used in teaching, students' comprehension of the lesson improves.

Here are some tips and techniques that you can use to help students effectively learn and use class topic vocabulary.

1. Select and explicitly teach words that are critical to the understanding of the unit of study (i.e. if the student does not know these words, they will have difficulty understanding the unit). Remember - less is more......depth is more.

2. Have the students say the words. This lays down the phonological memory for the word so that the student can access this when they want to use it for an oral explanation or in written work.

3. Teach the new words in the context of a meaningful lesson and provide opportunities for student discussion that revolves around the use of the new words. (Copying definitions from the dictionary is not a meaningful context!)

4. Encourage the student to explain the meaning of the word in their own words (paraphrasing). This helps the students identify the core idea as well as the details important to the meaning of the word.

5. Connect the new word to background knowledge. The word may connect to information already learnt by the student, personal knowledge or experience. It is essential that the student explains the knowledge connection so that the connection is firmly established and can be used to retrieve the meaning of the word at a later time.

6. Identify examples of how the word can be applied as well as non-examples. This is useful to refine the student's understanding of the meaning of the words as well as consolidate knowledge connections.

7. Practice learning and using the word in multiple formats. Writing, drawing, explaining, creating a piece of art, role-playing, mneumonics (e.g. stationary and stationery - Stationery contains er and so does paper; stationary (not moving) contains ar and so does car).

 Click here to download a vocabulary learning map.