Friday, January 24, 2020

Applied Vocabulary: A Couple Strategies

This wasn't a planned blog post, but today I created a tweet that showed an activity my Juniors did in class that required them to apply some vocabulary knowledge. I had some requests for the activity. I figured I could write a quick post about it AND throw in one I did a few weeks ago with my World History Sophomores that I was very pleased with.

Because teaching vocabulary is so important. And not always exciting. Copy the definition. Draw a picture. Blah.

BUT I love good activities for vocabulary that help kids either understand the concept in CONTEXT of our historical time period OR that "spice it up" a little.

So here ya go. Two simple, but effective vocabulary strategies that I have used in January.

Picture Matching Vocabulary: The activity I posted on Twitter today. This was done at the beginning of our Great Depression unit (days 1-2).
  1.  Day 1 is not super exciting. I prep the kids with this unit, explaining that there is some heavy vocab. So we start with a simple KIM Vocab worksheet. (Yep. Worksheet. Sometimes they're necessary for basic knowledge level assignments). This is really to help set up the activity for day 2. There are 16 terms, difficult words. They fill out the simple worksheet during class. I allow them to work with teams, it's really relaxed type of day, but they're busy. 
  2. I make sure they know that the worksheet needs to be done tomorrow for our vocab competition. 
  3. Day 2: I created a slide presentation with pictures/images that represent each word. I give each image a number 1-16. Sometimes I prefer to make things in slides, even if I'm going to print. Easier to manipulate the images. 
  4. Print off the pictures and tape them up to the wall (I did this in the hallway so there was more room to move around.) 
  5. Students each get a 1/2 sheet of paper with the terms only and a space next to it. Their task is to wonder around looking at the images and attempt to match the term with the correct one. They may use their vocab sheets from Day 1, but this is INDIVIDUAL and a competition. The student with the most correct gets a prize. 

  • Kids find this hard (for the most part). They're not just regurgitating what they did the day before. They're studying HARD their own copied definitions and illustrations and attempting to figure out how they connect to each image. 
  • Often times I have to remind them during the activity, that it is supposed to be challenging. It is supposed to make them think and APPLY what they learned yesterday.
  • I have always had at least one student get them all right. Most kids are impressed with themselves and how many they were able to figure out, even though it is hard. 
  • I try to make the prizes "worth it." A cool pen or a package of microwave popcorn. Cheap prizes that kids get excited about. 
Want that lesson? Click HERE >>> Great Depression Vocab Matching

Frequently Asked Question: What do I grade with this? Answer: Nothing. Of course the kids don't know that. :) 

Image Introduction Activity: This was done as the very first activity of the year. Our World History scope and sequence has us starting with Renaissance. There is a little need for comparison to Middle Ages to Renaissance. I used this as a way to get students talking about differences before giving them ANY content knowledge. 
  1. I found 8 examples of Renaissance art, architecture, and science. I found 8 examples of Middle Age art, architecture, and science. I attempted to find similar images creating "buddy images". (Last Supper Renaissance and Last Supper Mid Ages). 
  2. I taped them up around the room next to their "buddy image" 
  3. Students were given a simple record form that aske them the station # they were at and what the similarities and differences were between the two pictures. 
  4. Kids paired up, walked around, analyzed images and had conversations. 

How is this vocabulary? 
Because these kids, through just simple conversations, were already USING the vocabulary I was going to be teaching them in our Renaissance unit...and they didn't even know it! They were pointing out characteristics of Renaissance art (realism, perspective, light and shade). They were applying knowledge they didn't even know they had! I love it! 

Plus this made a simple activity that I could refer back to when I was explaining in more detail some of the changes that occurred during the Renaissance. 

Want those pictures? Click HERE >>> Renaissance Image Introduction

Cool right!?!

Both of these activities require students to DO things. Requires them to apply information and think at a higher level. Both of these are engaging and I rarely have to redirect someone back on task. (Though, it does happen. There are no perfect teachers). Both of these allow me to sit back and watch them learn...I facilitate the learning, I don't just tell them what they need to know. 

Don't be afraid to allow kids to try things on their own. Will they fail? Sure, sometimes. But they will also have moments of success. They may just surprise more than themselves with how much they're capable of.


  1. Do you have any lessons on the gilded age?

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I just used the Picture-Matching-Vocab strategy with (below-level ELL) freshmen starting the French Revolution, and it worked out really well!