How can you teach a word?

Describe it. Draw it. Show a picture of it. Show the real thing. Act it out. Give synonyms or other words that are like it. Give antonyms to the word. Give examples. Tell mini stories about yourself or others (real or not real) using that word. Relate the word to your students – ask them questions. Involve your students in discussions using that word. Relate it to earlier stories, jokes, or things they have learned. Get everyone involved. Make up funny examples that get the students laughing. Refer back to them often. Use these stories as inside jokes that only your group of students will understand.

Concrete Examples

Here is an example of how one might teach using the target vocab from the story The Terrible Punishment. To cover a class with multiple levels of students in it, you can teach each word while using a broader “circle” of related words around it. The less advanced students will get only a general understanding of these “circle” words, but will come away with a good sense of the target word itself. The more advanced students have the chance to learn much more than the target vocab, especially if most of those words were familiar to them. As you teach each word, write it on the board. I also tend to draw a lot while I teach vocab, so at the end of the lesson the board is covered in words and sketches. Throughout the lesson, it’s vitally important to check for understanding. Ask, “Does that make sense? Do you understand? Do you get it?” (These should be learned early on by your students.) You will probably be able to tell when a word needs more explanation. Vary your stories and example sentences depending on the age and interests of your students.

Target Words:

drag your feet - (Act it out – put on an expression that says you don’t want to go where you’re going, and drag your feet with exaggeration.) I’m dragging my feet because I don’t want to go to school. I’m dragging my feet and going slow. Maybe I have a test today and that’s why I don’t want to go to school. Maybe my mom says I have to go with her to have tea with her friends and I really don’t want to go! (Also teach “drag” by itself – drag a heavy suitcase, etc.)

groan – (Make the sound.) When do you groan? You groan when you’re sick. You groan when you don’t want to do something. Maybe your mom says you have to stop watching the movie and go to bed, so you groan: “Awwww, mom!” It can be for pain or pleasure.

punish – After you do something bad, you are punished for it. Your teacher punishes you if you are talking to your friend in class. Maybe you have to stand in the corner or do extra work or stay after school for your punishment. Parents punish you when you do something bad. If you break a rule, they might punish you in different ways. They don’t let you leave the house, they don’t let you use the phone, they don’t let you watch TV. What do your parents do to punish you? (Also teach related words “grounded,” “in trouble.”)

grumpy – I’m grumpy if I don’t get my coffee in the morning. I’m grumpy if I don’t get enough sleep. Grumpy is a mood – a bad mood. When you’re grumpy, you’re not nice to people. You’re not happy. You whine or cry or complain. Are any of you grumpy in the morning? Who’s grumpy today?

expect – People are coming to my house at 7:00. So 7:00 comes, and I’m expecting people, I’m waiting for them. I think something will happen, so I expect that it will happen. An example could be if a kid does really well in class and does all his homework, I expect he’ll do well on the test. And the kid who doesn’t try and doesn’t care and doesn’t want to listen? I expect he won’t do so well. Let’s say I got a bad grade in school. When my mom sees my report card, I expect she’ll be angry.

fell for it –When you tell somebody something and they believe you, but it’s not true. You can say they fell for it. For example, maybe you want to play a joke on someone. You could say, “There’s a spider on your arm!” They’ll say “Where?!” and you say “ha ha, you fell for it. You believed me.” (You could also teach “buy it” – he bought it, he won’t buy it; “naïve,” and “gullible.” A good joke for older students is “Did you know the word gullible is written on the ceiling?” Make up a silly lie in class: By the way, at the end of class today, we will have a big test over all of these new words. Wait for a reaction. Then say “Oh, you fell for it! There’s no test; it was a joke.”

trick – If you play a joke on someone, you trick them. You want someone to fall for something. I want my sister to believe that there’s school on Saturday. I’m going to trick her. (Spend a lot of time connecting the words “trick” and “fall for it.” Continue to refer back to it as you teach other words.) Sometimes when you trick someone, you lie to someone, but not necessarily for a mean purpose – it could be just for fun. (Don’t use the examples in the story, because the story will serve as one MORE example later to help solidify that expression. You could also teach “trick or treat.”)

hose – A hose is a long green tube that you use to water your grass and flowers. In the summer, children like to play in water. You use the hose to fill up a little swimming pool, or to fill water balloons.

spray – You can spray water out of a hose if you put your thumb on it. Spray is like splash – water goes everywhere. (Also mention hair spray, to spray perfume, spray paint, graffiti.)

grin – A grin is a smile, but sometimes it’s sly. Maybe you did something sneaky, so you’re grinning. If you come to school smiling really big, I might ask you, “Why do you have such a big grin on your face? Are you trying to trick me?”

scrub – When you scrub, you clean something really well. Maybe you scrub the dishes. If you have a child and the child writes on the walls, you have to scrub the walls.

soap – You wash your hands with soap to get really clean. When you take a shower, don’t forget to use soap! People have soap in their bathrooms.

sponge – Do you guys know Sponge Bob Squarepants? He’s a sponge. It’s an animal in the sea, but we also use it for cleaning. It has lots of holes, and it holds lots of water. You use it to clean things, like dishes. I give my baby a bath with the sponge. You can put soap on the sponge.

strange – give synonyms: odd, weird, bizarre. antonyms: normal, usual, ordinary, typical. For example, it would be strange if one of our students (name) walked in with blue hair. We would say, wow, that’s strange! Or if it’s really hot out, and someone comes in with a big winter coat on. That’s strange.

show off – You show off when you want to be popular and you want people to like you and look at you. You want to be the center of attention. You want to be in the spotlight. If there’s one kid in class who shouts out all the answers before anyone else, he’s showing off. Maybe a boy is doing tricks on his bike because he wants the girls to like him. He’s a show-off. He is showing off. A class clown likes to show off. The class clown is the one who likes to talk, the cleverest, the smartest. He wants everyone’s attention and he wants to make kids laugh. (Also teach “brag” – someone who brags always says they’re the best. If I say, ‘I’m the best hockey player. No one is as good as me. I’m better than everybody,’ I’m bragging. Someone who shows off likes to brag sometimes too.)

realize – Realize is like know or understand. (First give examples with “know” and replace “know” with “realize”.) I know that she is coming at 3:00. I realize she is coming at 3:00. I know that this is hard for you. I realize that this is hard for you. Realize can also be used when you know something suddenly. Oh, I just realized something. Suddenly you know something that you didn’t know before. Suddenly, you just now understand for the first time. I just realized that you’re lying. I just realized that this was a mistake. I just realized that we don’t have school today. Sometimes it’s like you just remember something that you forgot. I just realized I don’t have my homework with me.

speechless – It’s like to be surprised, shocked. You’re so shocked you can’t speak. You’re speechless. Maybe you’re so scared or so happy that you can’t talk. You can’t talk because an emotion has taken control. You don’t know what to say. Maybe you get a birthday present from someone you thought didn’t like you. Or maybe you find out something shocking, like your best friend lied to you. Maybe you’re looking at a beautiful scene or a painting and it’s so beautiful that you are speechless. (Teach –full and –less. Hopeful vs. hopeless. Careful vs. careless. Give a few examples, so that when they see these endings they will be familiar with what they mean.)

Review, review, review

Leave some extra time at the end of class to quickly review the words you taught that day one more time. Repeat these words the next day, and again a few days later. It doesn’t have to be systematic. It could simply be a spontaneous, quick review. Watch your students – if they don’t remember a word, you can see it on their faces. Spend a little extra time going over it. Jog their memory with another example.

Before going over the homework (worksheets), quickly re-teach the words that come up in each section on the worksheet. Break it into sections – review the words in one section, then go over the sentences with those words. Then go to the next section. It takes a lot of repetition to make a word stick. But with your explanations of vocab in class plus the stories and worksheets, you will be amazed at how quickly your students can learn.

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