Vocabulary Instruction

I am starting to write my final thesis for my master’s degree.  I have been reading a TON about vocabulary instruction {which is totally lacking in the primary grades!}. I would love to hear how you teach vocabulary in your Kindergarten/First Grade classrooms or if you even teach it at all!  You can send me an e-mail at growingkinders@gmail.com or you can leave a comment below.  If you have a link to a blog post about vocabulary instruction, leave that too!

Thanks for your help!!


  1. I teach vocabulary every day! In each theme we have each week (penguins, st. patty's, christmas, mapping, bears, etc), there is always a new word to learn! I use a ton of charts (anchor, part-whole, bubble, etc).

    I also like to use Fancy Nancy to expose the kiddos to "fancy words" and their meanings. We make a list of common descriptive words (big, little, cute, etc) and we think of fancy words all week to use instead of those words. :)

  2. I create vocabulators which came from Melissa Forney. She has tons of great resources online at her website. I wrote a post a while back about the vocabulators, how to make them, pictures, and links to her site. The voacbulator is engaging and can be created for a theme easily with water bottles.

    Here a link to my post. Primary Graffiti

  3. Rachelle - I would love to see photos of your charts if you have them - with your permission, I would love to include them in my paper! It would be great to have a variety of examples! How do you hold the kids accountable to using/knowing the words?

    Mrs. Saud - LOVE LOVE LOVE the vocabulators!! What a great idea for reinforcing vocab words. They would make a fantastic literacy center! Do you have pictures of some that you've made? I would like to include those as well!! :)

  4. Are you familiar with Isabelle Beck's book on vocabulary? It is fantastic. It's called Bringing Words to Life and is well worth reading.
    We use many of the strategies in her book to teach vocabulary and we practice the vocabuary through the use of linguistic patterns. We also talk about example and non-example such as: Is a mouse enormous or an elephant?
    Fran Kramer: kindergartencrayons.blogspot.com

  5. Thanks, Fran! That book is open right in front of me! I'm about 1/2 way through it. I'm working on the "meat" of my paper now, can't wait to get going on the methods and activities! That's the fun part!!!

  6. One of the ways I teach vocab is to always make a word chart when start a new unit or theme. I use the smaller (half sized) large chart paper and we always put the topic at the top as a title then add new words as we learn. We stop in the middle of books or will add to it if students are able to make a connection or have a question about it. I leave the chart up in a literacy center (connections, connections!) for the kids to read, use in writing, etc. I always also draw a little picture next to each word to help them remember what it says and alternate colors when writing so they're easier to distinguish. Just using the terms a lot encouraging it in writing makes a lot of difference!

    I finished my master's last summer...you're almost there! Good luck!!! :)


  7. Our school uses a lot of direct instruction. We start the week by introducing new words and sharing definitions. We use an "I say, you say" method where students repeat the words and definitions back to the teacher three times. Later in the week we move into asking students to share their own definitions of the words and draw 5 second pictures of the words. In centers the students are asked to draw a picture of the word, write a definition, use the word in a sentence, and give examples/non examples. Sometimes we use four-block maps (by folding in half vertically and horizontally) other times we use flapbooks.

    I am still adjusting to teaching vocabulary in kindergarten due to the limited literacy of my students, especially at the beginning of the year!!! Teir 1 and 2 words are okay, but I really struggle throwing in those Tear 3 words. I can't wait to see more responses to your post.

    I will blog about your topic later today if I can find some good pictures and products at the house. (If not I'll blog it on Monday.)


  8. I do something similar. I chart the theme on a paper and below it, I divide the chart into 3 areas: vocabulary word, picture, and simple definition.

    I fill out the chart and have students repeat, but more importantly, when students say the definition, I show them a hand motion to go along with the definition. This really seems to help students to recall the definition.

    Another important element is to have students repeat the definition throughout the day. When we line up, I'll call out, "spring" and students will call out, "when the weather gets warmer and plants begin to grow" while they motion their hands a plant growing from the ground.

    Hope this helps, good luck!

  9. Our reading curriculum has a fantastic picture chart that goes with it to enforce vocabulary. Each unit has a particular big book or trade book that goes with the vocabulary words. Before reading the book, we look at the picture chart and discuss what the pictures represent and what they mean. The next day, I read the book and the kids easily identify the vocabulary words and are able to see the words used in the text. The NEXT day, the kids retell the story to me while I show them the pictures, and this shows me who remembers/can use the vocabulary words in context.If you school doesn't have a reading curriculum that enforces vocabulary words, it would be simple to create your own picture chart: a picture (real photo or illustration, most of the ones on our chart are photographs though) on a sentence strip with the word next to it. Good luck!

  10. Wow!!! What an amazing find!!!! I love the ideas that were presented. You are all very talented and creative. Thanks for sharing!!