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Which activities are the most effective?

In this step we will model three activities that can be used to teach vocabulary: The Frayer Model¹, The Paint Chart and a task from Beck and Meckeown’s Menu of Instruction².

Each activity builds upon the previous one and is used to provide a different focus. This example models using just one word but normally a group of words would be taught at the same time.

The Frayer Model involves pupils in defining new vocabulary and thinking about examples and non-examples: a form of deep processing. PDF version available to download below.

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In this example, the text book definition and one the teacher has crafted have both been included. This is a good example of the ‘traditional’ definition being as, or more, complicated than the word itself. To have the greatest impact this chart would be completed with the pupils – definition first, followed by characteristics. The teacher can then provide a mix of examples and non-examples and pupils can discuss which ones go where on the chart, or pupils could generate their own examples/non-examples.

Further resources for different types of Frayer Model.

The Paint Chart Method

The paint chart method is a way of looking at synonyms for a word and grading them in some way in order to discuss nuances of meaning. Common ways of doing this are synonyms for the word hot and then putting them in order from the coolest to the hottest. To continue the theme of evaporation, synonyms might be: drying out, escaping, dehydration, disappearing, fizzle out and vaporise. Questions that could be asked are:

  • Which synonym would be best for a fiction book where a ghost evaporates into the ether? Why?

  • Which synonym would be the most suitable to use with 6 year olds? Why?


Put the synonyms in order from most likely to appear in a scientific text to least likely. An example of this might be:

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PDF available to download below.

Word Association from Beck et al’s Menu of Instruction

The purpose of this activity is to highlight words that are linked to the key word or that you might find around it. These words can often act as signals to a reader that evaporation is being talked about in a text. The connecting of words in the pupils’ own contexts ensures deep processing will occur. To find the words, pupils can suggest words and can also look in books that use the focus word to see which appear frequently.

Words associated with evaporation: wet, molecules, liquid, fluids, sun, heat, condensation, process and gas.

After collection, pupils can orally rehearse sentences that might contain evaporation and at least one of the other words, e.g.

The process of evaporation is happening to liquids all the time.

  1. Frayer, D., Frederick, W. C., and Klausmeier, H. J. (1969). A Schema for Testing the Level of Cognitive Mastery. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

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An Introduction to Teaching Vocabulary

Babcock Education

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