Vocabulary, even in Kindergarten, is a staple for reading development. If students do not have the vocabulary they need, they will never have full text comprehension; therefore, they will never be able to develop true reading comprehension.
Too often, vocabulary development is not a main focus in kindergarten. However, it remains an important curriculum component that must taught consistently and intentionally. This lesson demonstrates an easy routine that promotes the development of new vocabulary in kindergarten classrooms!
This routine supports children to own their words! Instead of the teacher introducing the word and giving the definition to students, students are involved in the process of explaining the word and are in charge of remembering enough to teach each other! In the end, students always remember what they've had to teach someone else more than they would remember something they heard from someone else. Also, students will remember something they had multiple exposures to more than they would a quick teacher explanation!
*Students will have to be in groups of 2-3 for this routine. I like to have them in groups of 3 for this. For this routine, I personally do not like random groups- I like to use the same groups for this routine every time. I like to call these groups "dependable partner groups," but feel free to call your groups whatever you want! I find it helpful to have a term though, so they know who to get together with and can do it quickly! (My "dependable partner groups" are made up of one beyond-level reader, one on-level reader and one approaching-level reader; I do this so these students can work together and help each other and hear different language models when they work with others.)
I attached a sign for "Dependable Partner Groups," if you like that term!
This lesson should be introduced after reading a story with an unknown word.
Re-read or review the story and refer back to the unknown word. Talk to students about how to approach unknown words: "look at the pictures, read around it, etc... or, find out the definition!"
"Today, I am going to teach you our vocabulary routine! Our vocabulary routine helps us to learn and remember new words! The way I am going to teach it to you is to have us practice it with this new word from our book (insert the word from your text). To learn new words with this routine, like (new word), we have to get into our 'dependable partner' groups."
Count down until they get into their groups.
For this example, we will use the word lagging.
"Our new word is lagging. Now your turn."
(Students will say "Our new word is lagging.")
"If something is lagging, it is falling behind. Your turn."
(Students will say, "If something is lagging, it is falling behind.")
"Great! You're right! Now, I will make a motion for this word to help us remember it."
[Normally, I would let students create the gestures, but this first time, I would show them how. I would show them a movement that pointed behind me and moved towards me slowly.]
"Now, I will put this motion with our definition. (Make motion.) If something is lagging, it is falling behind."
"Now, since you know the definition of lagging, I want you to teach each other. So, number one, tell your partners."
(Give about 10 seconds for number 1 to tell their partners.)
"Now, number two, tell your partners."
(Give about 10 seconds for number 2 to tell their partners.)
"And, number three, tell your partners."
(Give about 10 seconds for number 3 to tell their partners.)
"Since we've taught each other, you can now go and get back in your spots."
Count down until they get back to their places.
"Oh! I forgot our new word for the day! Can you tell me the definition?"
(Students should repeat the definition for the word lagging and show you the motion at the same time.)- I would probably do it along with them since this is the first time- this will show them your expectation for repeating the routine for you.
"Great! You remembered the word, lagging!"
Steps are listed in an anchor chart for your reference.
They are as follows:
You say it.
They say it.
You define it.
They repeat the definition.
They create a gesture.
You say the definition with the gesture.
They get into groups and, one at a time, teach each other the definition with the gesture.
They get out of groups and teach you the definition with the gesture.
You congratulate them and repeat the word one last time.
Once I teach a word with the vocabulary routine, I go through that routine at least one more time in its entirety.
For example, if I read the story on Tuesday and do the introductory routine for the word then, I might repeat the process on Wednesday after a re-read.
After the students have gone through the routine two times, I then only practice the words in a single sentence form. *It is important to use the word in a sentence for them!*
For example, I might just say, "Oh! Look at Johnny- he is lagging behind in the line! What does lagging mean?"
Also, I choose my "helpers" each day by asking them to repeat a definition. For example, "If you know the definition of lagging, you can be my gentleman's restroom monitor."
Finally, I put the words up on the wall so I don't forget to use them. I have a focus wall in my classroom that I refer to with the students. I also use it to remind me of what I should be talking about! On this wall, I have a section called "Juicy words." (Feel free to steal that term or use another one.) I will put up the word, the definition and a sentence. With these words, I usually leave them up for about 2-3 weeks, until I KNOW we have them down. Then, I just write the word on a sentence strip and hang it (without a definition or sentence) somewhere in the room- for Write the Room, centers, future exposure, writing reference, etc.
**Attached, there is a video of a small group practicing the vocabulary routine (with the word, scrumptious) after I have taught them the word. This is the middle step of the vocabulary routine process. This video shows how quick it actually is and how students are owning the words already (with their first use)!
**Also attached, there is a video of the same group of students being helpful to a student who wasn't really listening to the defined word. This is a great example of how students learn to depend on and help each other through this lesson!
It is a good idea to review these juicy words so that students can continue to use them!
I like to review new words within a story every day for at least a week. For example, if we introduce the words for a story on Monday or Tuesday, we will continue to use them and read them and look for their meaning within the context of the story through Friday. After that, I like to hang up our juicy words so students can continuously be reminded of these new words for reading and writing purposes.
One way to really have students remember these new words is to have them keep a vocabulary journal. Using the vocab reference chart, I like to have students write down the words, then their definitions and then a sentence including the new words. I like doing this because students are able to take responsibility for their own learning of these words while also allowing them to practice writing. In addition, students can look back through their journals, throughout the year and with different projects, to use these words over and over!