Five Ways to make Teaching High School Vocabulary Fun and Interesting

Teaching Strategies Updated January 6, 2016

Teachers face a variety of challenges on a day-to-day basis, but perhaps their biggest challenge is helping students become successful. A struggling student or struggling group of students is often blamed on the instructor or the instructor’s teaching. One way to ensure that all students experience the same levels of success is finding more innovative, engaging ways to teach in order to facilitate student participation in topics that might not be the most fun to learn. For instance, while high school vocabulary might not seem like the most interesting subject for students, learning new words and their meanings is essential to any student’s education.

But how does a teacher go about engaging students in learning high school vocabulary – a subject that students may not be the most passionate about? There are a variety of different methods teachers can deploy aside from the textbook and test method. Here’s a look at five high school vocabulary teaching methods that are fun, interesting and sure to engage students.

Vocabulary Bingo

After teachers put students through the typical curriculum (i.e., learn the word and what it means), it’s time to engage students in fun, lighthearted activities that will help them retain the information. One such activity is vocabulary bingo. Have the students make bingo cards, placing words they just learned in the various places on the card. Then, read the definitions of the word. If the students have that word, they’ll color in the box on their cards where it exists. This helps students put the definition with the word itself. Teachers can also reward students who complete bingo with prizes or extra credit points.

Word charting

The goal of teaching vocabulary is to expand a student’s word knowledge. One way to do this is by encouraging students to use vocabulary words in their lives. This is where word charting comes in. Teachers can encourage students to do this outside of the classroom while they’re at home. For instance, if students have just been taught the word “cacophony,” which means discordant sounds, encourage them to look for real-life scenarios to use it. Have students chart when they used it to describe something in their lives. For instance, a student may drop a dish on top of another dish in the sink and use “cacophony” to describe the sound it made. Give extra credit or prizes to the students that chart the most vocabulary words over a certain time in their proper contexts.

Short stories

Another way to make teaching vocabulary more fun is to have students create a short story or screenplay using the words they’ve just learned. Teachers can also make this a final project or midterm project. Typically, this will go over much better than a final exam, and students will be more willing to engage and get creative with such a task, especially if a large portion of their grade depends on it.

Write songs

To piggyback off the previous point, another way for students to better retain words is to have them write songs using them. This is also a project that will get the creative juices flowing with students. Break them up into groups and have them write lyrics with their new words in context of their definitions. Be sure to also offer extra credit for students who go above and beyond just writing lyrics, such as for groups that actually put music with their songs or record them to play them back to the rest of the class. Writing poetry with newly learned words is another option that could fall within this category.

Pictionary

Games have proved to be a better way to engage students and help them retain information in the classroom. And one game that could apply to new vocabulary words is Pictionary. Have students divide into groups and then diagram word definitions as best as they can, as their peers attempt to guess them. Another game might consist of students acting out words in short skits for classmates to guess. Such games are fun and are sure to produce a lot of laughs as students learn new words.

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