5 Resources for Teaching Vocabulary in Every Classroom

I was reviewing my recent posts and I realised that I promised a post on vocabulary teaching strategies, which I have not yet delivered.  Therefore, I will deliver it now.

vocab inigo

Most of the strategies I mention here are from quite a bit of Pinterest browsing and Google searching.  Original sources are recognised when possible.  I also used Vocabulary Strategies that Work, Do this-Not that! by Lori G. Wilfong (2013) for background information and strategy suggestions.  I have mentioned Wilfong’s text before and I could rave about it for quite a while, but I won’t.  Wilfong’s text is certainly worth the purchase price and is an investment that will benefit teachers and students.

Teachers need to understand what VOCABULARY means.  Some teachers call it Word Study, while others call it Vocabulary or Word Level Knowledge or something cute and groovy.  When teachers hear the word “Vocabulary” we all have a different mental picture which is why it needs to be clear.  

Vocabulary is an understanding of words and what they mean.  

When we plan vocabulary activities for our students/ classes we need to ensure that the focus is meaning and building an understanding of meaning.  It is also important to help students understand the various contexts in which a word may be used and what the word means in each context.

Resource One: 15 Vocabulary Strategies in 15 minutes

Most of these strategies are supposed to be completed in 15 minutes.  Some might need a bit more time than that.  I especially like the word splash strategy, vocabulary cartoons and graffiti vocabulary wall.  Most of these activities are great for homework tasks and revision of words learned in class.  Completed definitions that students have created would make wonderful classroom displays.

Resource Two: Vocabulary Rock and Roll

This is a game that students can play to revise vocabulary words.  Each number on the dice is assigned a task.  The student rolls the die and completes the task according to the number it lands on.  For example; if I roll a 2, the task is to write an everyday definition, so I copy the word into my word study book and write a definition in my own words.

 Other numbers are assigned tasks such as; act it out, draw it, write in a meaningful sentence.

Resource Three: Online Visual Dictionaries

Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary that displays results as a graphic organiser.  The source word (search term) appears in the middle of the web and then different coloured lines join the word with other derivations, meanings in various contexts and related words.  If you tend to draw concept maps or web type organisers when you are recording ideas of note taking this site will be useful for you.  It might also help if you need to connect two contexts or meanings of a word.

Dictionary.com is another online dictionary which provides pronunciation of words, derivation, parts of speech and definitions according to context. Contextual sentences are usually included with definitions.

Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dicitonary is also online and provides photographs or drawings to illustrate noun definitions.  The words are sorted in subject area categories such as science, society and sport.  It doesn’t have everything, but some images are useful for accompanying truncated definitions. 

Resource Four: Wall Wisher 

This site allows you to create a “wall” of digital sticky notes.  You can name the wall according to class or even task.  Walls can be created for use during a 24 hour period without need for subscription.  If you want to create a more permanent wall with administrative capabilities (you can control what students can add or not) then a free membership is required.  I tested this by naming a wall with one of my class timetable codes and placing a list of the vocabulary words for the unit.  Students then created a sticky note on the wall including the word they had chosen and a truncated definition.  Some students were able to upload diagrams and other supporting images along with their sticky note.  This is useful at the beginning or the end of a unit.  Students could use various search engines to find definitions for unfamiliar words on the list and teachers can use student responses to inform future vocabulary teaching.

wall wisher

Example of Maths Vocabulary Wall

There are other similar sites and some education departments/ schools provide their own virtual classroom/ learning platforms that teachers can utilise in this way.


Resource Five: Frayer Models

The link above will take you to a document explaining the Frayer Model and how to use it in a Mathematics classroom. There are examples of the original Frayer Model and activities for using them.  The Frayer Model is essentially a concept map and many teachers have adapted the basic structure to suit the purposes of instruction.


Another common adaptation is the “Vocabulary Window” which has less spaces to fill in but is just as useful in assisting students to construct meaning.

vocab window

It is important to remember that the Frayer Model is used to  connect the word to student understanding and provide a frame for constructing meaning of the word.  Students should not be asked to complete 10 Frayer Models at once, but just one at a time.

There are hundreds of vocabulary worksheets and teaching ideas available on the internet and in literacy teaching texts.  Some teachers use “fold-ables” for students to record vocabulary and use for revision.  Some teachers will always rely on ‘old favourites’ to teach vocabulary.  When viewing resources, activity ideas, black line masters, or templates, teachers should be mindful of their purpose.  Consider the focus of the vocabulary lesson and whether or not the resource/ activity will assist you and your students keep that focus and reach the ultimate goal of the lesson.

Remember that VOCABULARY is construction or understanding of words and their meanings in relevant contexts.  


If you have any ideas for vocabulary instruction I would love to hear from you.  Please share in the comments below.  If you would like to ask me a question about literacy instruction or my role as a Literacy Coach, please add it to the comments below and I will endeavour to answer promptly.  If you like this please click the button so I can feel warm and fuzzy.  Thanks 😀



The Literacy Coach


One thought on “5 Resources for Teaching Vocabulary in Every Classroom

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Incorporate Literacy in the Non-ELA ClassroomThe Educator's Room | Empowering Teachers as the Experts.

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