Building Vocabulary Skills - Made Easy

› Vocabulary Thermometer

This easy method for building vocabulary skills can be used with any book, at any grade level and in any subject.

I can't believe nobody else has ever thought of teaching vocabulary like this, but lucky for me (and you!) I tried it out in my own classroom and it works.  Even the ESOL teachers came by to see a lesson with it and couldn't get over how simple and effective it is.

Many of the ways to build vocabulary that works for prolific readers just don't pan out for those of us who are engaged in teaching young children.  Many of them can't read enough yet and don't have a large working vocabulary that has been developed at home.

And let's face it: we really don't have time to do lessons just for vocabulary every day.  They have to be integrated, not separate.    

But we have to work on improving these kids vocabularies.  There aren't many children who will be aware of words naturally, read more, use a dictionary (or even Google the words) or any other ideas most sites seem to give. 

I've listed some great methods on other pages:

But it all comes down to finding one really easy strategy we can use every day, right?

Here it is...

I'm excited too!

Building Vocabulary Skills with Hot and Cold Words

It's so simple - use a huge thermometer on a bulletin board, and place synonyms for words on the thermometer according to how hot and cold they are. 

Confused yet?  It's actually hard to explain (but easy to do) so stay with me. 

Let's say you read a book out loud every day.  That's pretty much a given, right?  Within that book there are lots of words you could build vocabulary skills with.  Just choose one that is a Tier 1 word (basic and doesn't require direct instruction for most students to understand it) and that there are a lot of synonyms for.

Let's pretend I read a book about pizza and I want to build vocabulary for the word "chew."

Before I did my  read aloud, I wrote  5-10 synonyms on index cards.  After I read the story, I start talking about the word "chew"  We give examples of ways to chew, words that can describe it, etc.  You know the drill.

Here is where we will build that Tier 2 Vocabulary.  These are words that are the most important for direct instruction.  Why?

  1. Increase reading comprehension
  2. Often have multiple meanings
  3. Help students describe concepts in detail

Without a highly developed Tier 2 vocabulary, kids are at a huge risk for failure.

Then I pull out my cards that I wrote synonyms or related words on:

  • eat
  • bite
  • gnaw
  • crunch
  • munch
  • chomp
  • masticate (whoa - this is a very big word for second graders but they will definitely learn what it means with this activity!)

As I introduce each word I give an example of it, use it in a sentence or show a piece of realia as a concrete example.  Then we decide together where the word would belong on the thermometer. 

We started with the word "chew." At the beginning we put it on the line marked warm. But as we went through the words, the students decided that chewing something wasn't very descriptive...it wasn't even a warm word so they decided to lower it.

By the end, the words were placed on the thermometer  - by the students - according to how hot or cold they were.  Then we began to use those words with another awesome vocabulary activity I wrote about on this page

What do you think?  Is it simple enough to use in your classroom?

You can purchase it for $3.00 following the BUY NOW link.

Buy the vocabulary thermometer now

The link will take you to PayPal.  After completing your payment, you will receive a download link for the zip file. Be sure to put an email address in that you can receive files on - sometimes school emails won't allow it.

When you purchase the thermometer ($3.00) you will get two forms:  a PDF for American printers and an EU version for our overseas friends to print on A4 paper. 

I would LOVE to see a picture of how you are using the Vocabulary Thermometer in your classroom. 

If you get a moment, send a picture and a short description using the Contact Me page.  I might just have something to send you if you do! (wink wink!).


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