Teaching Contextual Vocabulary

There are two main approaches to
teaching vocabulary. One, the list approach, gives a list of words and their
meanings. The list may or may not be related to the topics the student is
currently studying. The second approach, the contextual approach, relies on
students ascertaining the meaning of words through reading, and related
activities. Both methods are useful, but I personally prefer the contextual
approach for most cases. I will use the list approach when students ask me about
the meaning of something I have said. On those occasions, I explain the word,
put it into a relevant sentence and add it to our word wall.

Using Word Walls

Word walls are wonderful teaching
aids. Unfortunately, space is often limited. What I do is keep a word wall for
various subjects. We have one for Math, one for Science and Health, one for
Social Studies ad one for Language Arts.

Each new word is written on an
individual strip of card and added to the appropriate wall. You can add them
chronologically, in the order they come up, by groups of associated words, by
word type (nouns, adjectives, verbs) or even alphabetically. Chose the method
that works best for you.

The word wall method has the
advantage that the cards are visible throughout the teaching day and can be
referred to constantly. The cards can also be removed, as space becomes limited
and placed in vocabulary boxes. The boxes can then be used for a variety of
games and activities. There is never a dull vocabulary moment in my classroom!

The word wall should not replace the
notebook. Space limitations mean that adding the definition to the wall is
nearly impossible. The notebook is valuable for listing the words and meanings,
to be used as a reference tool.

The list approach is self
explanatory, the students being given a list of words with meaning to learn. The
contextual approach could do with a little explanation, though.

The following passage and exercises
are designed to demonstrate how this method can be used. The student should
first read the passage and then complete the exercises. It can be applied to any
passage. In an individual setting the teacher can highlight the words in
advance, and prepare the exercises. If you are using a library book, or other
reading source that cannot be marked, or for large groups like school
classrooms, the words can be put on the board, or jotted down on paper. In this
case, ask the student to read the words first, and then look out for them in the

Sea Turtles: Context Vocabulary Passage

Exercise 1:
Defining Words from Context Clues

Exercise 2:
Word Puzzle

Vocabulary Exercise 3: Scrambled

Vocabulary Exercise Suggestions:
Including Links to worksheet generating programs

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