Make Vocabulary Meaningful

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SWBAT categorize words into groups and justify the grouping of words.

Big Idea

Grow your student's vocabulary by implementing a word sort and word splash. These strategies focus on the meaning of domain-specific vocabulary and help to develop a deep discussion with students.

What Is A Word Sort? Why Is It Important?

5 minutes

What is a word sort?

A word sort is an instructional strategy that can be implemented at a variety of learning levels. Word sorts can be done in small groups or independently. Students can sort words through a variety of genres such as: category, theme, or content. Students can also sort words into groups that make the most sense to them, especially when you ask them to justify their sort.

When students sort words, they focuses on CCSS such as RST.6-8.4 where they determine the meaning of domain specific words. Students need to know and understand the meaning of words or a group of words in order to see connections and relationships. Sometimes student may read text before or after a word sort. It is appropriate to do a word sort before or after reading text. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 states students determine the meaning of words as they are used in text. When students sort words before or after reading text, this offers opportunity as a formative assessment. 

Why is it important?

The value of a word sort is immeasurable. Teaching vocabulary is priceless and will stay with a student for a lifetime. Students at a variety of learning levels will benefit from a word sort. ELL and Special Education students gain a reading strategy that they will use throughout their academic career. For additional support, I use pictures and pre-printed words (text) for students to sort. Gifted students can excel at a word sort by extending their thinking and making connections "outside of the box."

It is important to explain to students the "what" and "why" for a word sort. It clarifies and gives meaning to the activity.

A Word Sort Activity

15 minutes

A Word Sort Activity

A Word Sort can be a formative assessment either before or after reading text. Before the lesson, I review the text and identify 15 - 20 words that are important in the reading. These are words that students will see and use throughout the unit. I write these words on note cards (or you can type and print them too) and make one set of note cards for each group of students. I distribute the note cards and ask students to sort the words into meaningful groups by discussing groupings and options with their peers. Students must be able to justify their groupings with evidence. During the activity, I circulate the classroom and discuss with each group the evidence that students used to place their words into a group.

A Word Splash

20 minutes

A Word Splash

A Word Splash is an active vocabulary strategy that can be used before, during, or after reading text. It is interactive while engaging students in the vocabulary and text in a new and different way. With a Word Splash, words are "splashed" across the page. Students use words, phrases, and/or sentences to make connections among words and explain how and why these terms are connected. Students begin to see relationships among the vocabulary words.

You have a range of ways to differentiate a word splash. To differentiate the activity, you could:

  • type vocabulary words and print them.
  • type and print a variety of phrases for students to choose from and add to make connections.
  • print images and/or pictures for students to add to the word splash.
  • color code word groups for ELL and Special Education students.