Vocabulary Strategies for Struggling Students from a Teacher

Having a well-developed vocabulary is one of the cornerstones of performing well in school. If you have a student who struggles with vocabulary in class, it’s essential that extra support is given to help him or her to succeed. Luckily, there are many different strategies that you can use to support struggling students and turn their struggles around once and for all.

Eight tried-and-true vocabulary strategies for struggling students

1. Word Detective

One of the best and most effective strategies to help a student excel in vocabulary is to encourage them to read, but merely reading a book with no other task does little to alleviate the issue. That’s why giving each child a job to do while they’re reading is a wonderful way to help them excel. 

Word Detective uses a book and a list of keywords to search for within the text. Each time the student comes across the keyword in the text, he or she writes it down on a sticky note along with how it was used in context and leaves it on their desk. At the end of their reading session, they count how many times they saw the keyword in the book and explains how the word was used in the context. 

This can be done as an assignment, or if you would like to make it a game, you can assign a point to each time the keyword is located in the text.

2. Concept Cube

The concept cube is a solution that works great for kinesthetic learners in the classroom. It consists of a six-sided cube that is devoted to a vocabulary word. Each side of the cube is dedicated to a particular word part:

  • Vocabulary Word 
  • Antonym
  • Synonym
  • Category it belongs to (i.e., noun, verb, etc.)
  • Essential characteristics
  • Example 

When first working with the concept cube, teachers can give students completed cubes to study and get a good understanding of how the cube works. Then, students should fill their own, starting with simple words and moving on to more complicated ones as the student gains more comprehension.

3. Word Connect 

A critical part of vocabulary comprehension is understanding how words relate to one another. A simple way to do this is by using a Venn diagram. Word Connect uses this diagram in conjunction with a pre-set group of vocabulary words to help students with vocabulary in a fun way. 

To begin, students are given a Venn diagram with two words written in the middle. They must then explain the relationship between these two words by writing down each word’s definition within the chart. After writing each definition, they are to explain how the two words are connected.

4. Word Races

Word races are a tremendous vocabulary strategy for struggling students of all ages. The teacher stands at the front of the class, and each participant stands in a line in front of the whiteboard. Then, the teacher reads off the definition of a vocab word.

The participants of this game then race to the whiteboard to write the word the teacher defined. This can be done as a game by giving students points for correctly written words or as a fun class activity. 

5. On-Purpose Errors

This vocabulary strategy can be done either aloud or on paper and is easy to implement for students of any age, making it a one-size-fits-all approach to help students struggling with vocab.

A sentence is either recited or written down with a wrong word, and students are encouraged to replace the misused word with the correct one. For example: “The lonely tiger was disappointed to see his friends approaching to play with him.” Students would then need to replace the word “disappointed” with the word “excited” or “relieved.”

6. Wall Match-Up

Some students who are not visual learners still need help with vocabulary, which is why it’s vital to employ strategies that address other learning styles. Wall Match-Up is an excellent solution for teachers wanting to support students who learn by touch. 

The premise is simple: students are given strips of paper with vocabulary words on them. On one wall of the classroom, the teacher should put up the definition of each word and have students match the words to their meanings. 

7. Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are a fun way to mix it up when working with students who struggle with vocabulary. The best part about this strategy is it works for students from all comprehension levels since those who need more time and support can be supplied with a word bank to choose from when completing the puzzles. 

8. Weekly Word Charts

One of the easiest ways to build on a child’s vocabulary is to practice frequent and consistent practice. Weekly word charts offer a straightforward solution to this problem since they introduce new words at the beginning of each week.

Depending on the comprehension level of the class, the vocabulary word or words of the week can be modified, ranging from words used in day-to-day conversations to words used in old manuscripts and are not used as often. 

9. Use Handouts

More vocabulary practice leads to higher comprehension levels for struggling students. One of the easiest ways to solicit more practice from these students is to assign worksheets that focus on vocabulary understanding. These are ideal for low-budget operations since these worksheets can be sourced online for free and even created in the classroom without spending any money. 

The most important thing to consider when searching for worksheets is how they apply to a student’s reading level. Teachers should choose worksheets that are as close to their students’ level as possible for the best results.

The Best Vocabulary Strategies Conclusion

Among the best vocabulary strategies for struggling students are those that address the areas that students struggle in the most. If a child has issues understand the context of certain words in books, for example, employing a strategy that uses books to strengthen their understanding is the best approach. Since there are so many different ways to enrich a child’s vocabulary comprehension, if one strategy doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to move on to the next one! 

About Jessica Phillips

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