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Vocabulary Expander

Literacy is at the forefront of the educational agenda at the moment, with a clear focus in improving students’ levels of written and spoken English. With the reintroduction of SPAG marks at GCSE, there is also even more of an incentive for students to pick up (and learn to spell!) appropriate subject terminology. Plus I happen to think that if they can use appropriate terminology, their explanations are actually of a higher quality than if they rely largely on the words ‘stuff’ and ‘like.’

The Vocabulary Expander is a quick and easy tool that requires virtually no pre-planning, and little more than a whiteboard or piece of paper in the way of resources. It works best as an evolving document (or whiteboard) that involves you, your Teaching Assistant if you have one, and the students collaboratively throughout the lesson. At the end of the lesson you have a glossary of relevant terms, which you can either type up or simply photograph.

What you need:

  • A whiteboard, a large piece of sugar paper, or smaller pieces of paper if you wanted each group to produce their own vocabulary expander
  • A pen

What you do:

Draw a simple grid like the one below, with two columns, and as many rows as you like.

During the lesson, students fill in any words they encounter whose meanings they do not know in the ‘word’ column. You may find it helpful to put in a couple yourself at various points in the lesson, to emphasise that it is an ongoing activity and students are free to add to it when they need to.

Any student who sees a word appear in the ‘word’ column, whose definition they do know, can come up and fill in the ‘definition’ column. As the lesson goes on, you can also fill in any definitions.

At the end of the lesson your class will have a subject-specific, collaboratively created glossary of terms that students can reference back to in future lessons. I recommend taking a photo and creating a ‘glossary gallery’ on the wall for future reference.

Charlotte Grove

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