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Using the Vocabulary

There are a number of activities that can be explored with pupils in order to ensure that the meaning of the words on the word wall is developed. Some examples are:

• Define the words and then ask pupils a series of questions about them, e.g. disquiet means to feel worried or uneasy. Why might a child feel disquiet in a cemetery? Can you feel disquiet in a brightly-lit room? This is what Doug Lemov calls ‘active practice’ and is based on problem-solving questions.

• Pupils describe a word or the context it might be used in and a partner says a word that would fit the situation and explains why it is that word.

• Pupils take on the role of teacher by making up a quiz for a partner about the words on the wall, e.g. Which words might be synonyms for scary?

• Make up sentences with as many of the words in as possible.

• Make up a story using as many of the words as possible. This could be orally and then might be written.

These are based on Word Wall Activities by Jasmine and Schiesl¹

Another activity that can be used is to create usual words in unusual combinations. This idea works on the basis that good writers don’t use the fanciest, biggest words that they can find in a dictionary or thesaurus but combine their words in unusual ways to create memorable moments for a reader.

Haunted picture of living room with ghost hand

Using the image above and the list of words, which you can download, combine the words to create phrases.

Steps for creating phrases:

  • Create an atmosphere or mood that you want to convey, e.g. menacing

  • Choose a noun that can be seen in the image, e.g. chair, hands, wall, room hearth, shadows.

  • Choose words from the columns on the handout and put them together. You can go left to right, one from each column or you can start anywhere and jump around. If it is the first time pupils have done this activity, it might be best to start from the left and take one word from each column.

  • Record the phrases that conjure up the image you want to convey. If the phrase does not work for whatever reason, do not record it.

For example; Atmosphere – mysterious, noun – shadows

Table of example words to record and not to record

You will notice that I have added in words (the, an, of, a) and I could change the endings of the words to make them work. For example, the blaze of the chandelier has the ‘-ing’ removed from blazing.

  1. Jasmine, Joanne & Schiesl, Pamela. (2009). The Effects of Word Walls and Word Wall Activities on the Reading Fluency of First Grade Students.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Teaching Vocabulary

Babcock Education