There is no one correct way to teach vocabulary, but nearly all educators can agree that vocabulary should be taught in context. This is something I'm passionate about, as I do not believe vocabulary should be taught in isolation. Teaching a child what the word "forlorn" means, but never reading, applying, or using the word in context is quite terrible instruction. I will be the first to say that I'm consistently trying new things with vocabulary and I'm always trying to switch up how we talk about, practice, and use vocabulary in the classroom. Some strategies work great with some classes, while not great with others.
Before a read aloud, I'll front load a list of words to students. I'll tell them to keep an eye and ear out for those words in the text while we read, and when we stumble upon one to hold up a sign language "V" so we know to pause and analyze its context. I'll model working through using context clues, sentence structure, and picture cues to help me identify what the word could mean, then students try modeling for their classmates for the last few words in the text. It is SO IMPORTANT to model for young readers what it looks like to stumble through a word's meaning! We even do this as adults. I can't tell you how often I quickly google search a definition of a word while I'm reading.
During our literacy center time, students will work through their vocabulary journals. Vocabulary journals come in all sorts. Some teachers use graphic organizers, which can be effective, but if they are not switched up often can lose their effectiveness and just become monotonous. Some teachers have students copy definitions into a notebook and draw a picture to go with, which again, will lose its effectiveness quickly. I've tried so many strategies for reinforcing vocabulary that have NOT worked. Enter: Google Slides!!
My students have started using these this year and get so excited about creating in them. I've now made my vocabulary journals digital. Students are essentially creating a digital scrapbook page for each word on a slide. Every slide has a word, its definition, synonyms and antonyms, photos, and sentences. They are free to add color, change fonts, add backgrounds, and play around to make them look nice. I have them use a new file of slides each quarter to stay organized (and it helps me assess because I know which pieces of work belong in what time period). The beginning of the year we do these together during guided reading time so I can establish an expectation for them, and teach them how to utilize the tools and safely search for photos. Eventually, they're ready to do them independently. Here's an example:
What I love most about doing my Vocabulary Journals digitally, is how much practice they get with Google Apps! They're focused on content while learning how to navigate Google Slides little by little. My second graders come to me with little to no experience using Google Apps, so I do A LOT of front loading first, and often second, quarter. I love seeing how independent they become in this area by third and fourth quarter. Their confidence grows as they see what they're able to create. I love it!
Please reach out if you have any questions on how I create the template and share it out with my students. I'm happy to share. Vocabulary is so important for growing comprehension in readers, and it's not an area of teaching to take lightly or pass over if you're short on time. Always make room to model and instruct learning vocabulary!
For more information on the importance of vocabulary instruction, see this article HERE and this study HERE.