How to Teach New Vocabulary Words

Teaching vocabulary involves a number of different components. First, of course, you want to ensure that students simply learn the correct definition of a word and are able to commit that word to memory. However, with millions of words in the English language and many specialized words, teaching vocabulary correctly is about more than helping students memorize words. It is about giving students the coping skills necessary to understand what to do if they don't know a vocabulary word, and about installing a lifelong curiosity for learning words and a desire to always know more about the language. If you can impart these skills to students, their vocabularies will continue to improve and students will have a firmer, more solid grasp of how to speak and function in a literary world, that will help them throughout their lives.

Teaching Vocabulary

The essential fundamentals for teaching vocabulary involve teaching students how to use a dictionary to look up words they don't know. discern the meaning of a word from its context and how to determine a definition of a word using tools such as root words, prefixes and suffixes.

Helping Students Look up Definitions

For elementary school children, looking up words in the dictionary is one of the first fundamental lessons a student should learn. Students should understand how most dictionaries work. They should:

  • Practice looking up words alphabetically

  • Be taught that the vast majority of dictionaries define a word by providing its synonyms

  • Learn the pronunciation guides available in the dictionary and how to use those symbols to help them pronounce words correctly

Showing students how to look up words should thus be the fundamental first step in teaching young children vocabulary.

You can then help them to practice these skills by giving them a list of words to look up on a daily basis. They can play games such as dictionary races to see who can look up each of the words the fastest, in order to make this more fun.

Tell students to keep a dictionary with them at all times. Use words periodically that you don't think the students will know, and encourage them to always look up any word that they come across on their own if they are uncertain of the definition. Students should keep a vocabulary notebook in which they write down all of the words that they don't know which they look up in their dictionaries.

Finding definitions and synonyms are easy at Simply enter the words you are looking for to view information about your chosen words.

Helping Students Understand Context

While learning vocabulary is useful, it is impossible for students to learn every word that they will ever encounter. Therefore, it is essential to also teach students how to cope with words that they don't know in case they cannot look them up. This skill is especially useful for students who will one day need to take the SAT or ACT test, both of which have a vocabulary component.

Students should learn several pieces of information about garnering the meaning of a word from the context. Students should:

  • Learn to look for clues in the sentence itself; words that let them know what the unknown word is most likely to mean

  • Focus on direction words which indicate whether the word will be similar or different from the other words in the sentence.

  • Begin to try to discern whether the word is most likely to be a positive word or a negative word

  • Identify the part of speech of the word from the context in the sentence

Students can improve their vocabulary when they use these contextual clues to help them to identify the meaning of words they don't know.

Students can practice this skill by doing fill-in-the-blank exercises in which one word is left out and they have to determine an appropriate word to put on the blank. They can also be given sentences in which one or more words is a difficult vocabulary word and can have to guess the meaning or definition of a word. features usage examples for all of our definitions. Simply enter the word you are looking for in the search box and hit the go button. Select the "Sentence Examples" tab to view sentences.

Helping Students Understand Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words

Prefixes, suffixes and root words are the building blocks of the English language. Teachers and parents should provide students with a definition of root words, prefixes and suffixes and teach the students the meaning of common root words, prefixes and suffixes. When students learn these building blocks, they will be better able to identify words they do not know.

How to Teach New Vocabulary WordsHow to Teach New Vocabulary Words

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