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Teachers - Vocabulary Development - Collecting Words and Being Curious About Words

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Expert Author Meggin McIntosh

Word lovers are fascinated by words.  And words are fascinating to word lovers.  Some children are naturally intrigued by words and others are not (yet).  As a teacher, you can foster the love of words in your students.  This article shares some ideas for encouraging that by having students collect words. 

  1. Create your own books (or purchase the ones available commercially) and have students write down interesting words, words they want to know the meanings of, words they want to remember the spellings of, or any other guideline that is appropriate for your students.
  2. Make wearable word cards.  These are fabulous for the youngest children.  Just take index cards (or card stock), have the child tell you words that he/she wants to wear because they're interesting (or they now know them, or whatever), and then put them on a shower curtain ring (or the like) along with a ribbon or piece of yarn and they can wear them.
  3. Have the students make trading cards of words (just like baseball cards).  Intermediate grades are the ones who will most likely find this a useful activity.  Everyone needs to have trading card-sized card stock.  They put interesting ('cool') words on each of their cards, then add definitions, illustrations, ways to use the word, etc.  Only during certain times of the day are students actually allowed to trade (you have to make it kind of off-limits to heighten the intensity of the activity).  You, of course, have some great words to introduce into the trading as well.  Students quickly learn that boring words aren't going to be much of a commodity.  It's the words that other students say, "Oh, cool! Yeah, I'll trade for that word."  Give this activity time to develop.
  4. Provide book marks where students can write words that they want to know more about.  This works well for all ages and is particularly useful for older students who may not want to indicate their lack of knowledge about a word.  You can just walk around and see what students have written and then help the class in their word learning (and growing interest in words).
  5. Put up a piece of poster board in your classroom titled "Interesting words."  Anytime you or the students hear or see a word that's interesting, this is where it goes!  Direct others who are coming into your classroom to notice this poster board, too.
  6. Have a special journal for yourself where you write down lovely, delicious, scrumptious, weird, exciting, fanciful words - and then share some of those words with students.  NOTHING makes more of an impact than your modeling.  Ask yourself these questions:  Do you collect words? Not as a teacher but just for yourself? Do you let you students know about the interesting words you've found?  If not, start doing so.  You and they will love it!  Two books you might enjoy, just to get you started are the following
  • The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk
  • Totally Weird and Wonderful Words (edited by Erin McKean)

As Beck, McKeown, & Kucan (2002) said,  

Among what needs to occur is that students need to keep using words if they are to "own" new words. Students need to notice words in their environments whose meanings they do not know. They need to become aware of and explore relationships among words in order to refine and fully develop word meanings. Indeed, being curious about the meaning of an unknown word that one encounters and about how it relates to other words is a hallmark of those who develop large vocabularies. (p. 13)

Entice your students with your love of words.  Support their interest and curiosity and watch their vocabulary development soar. 

And I invite you to explore the scores of free resources that you can use to build vocabulary in your classroom, including PowerPoints, PDFs, and Word documents, by going to...

** [] - and you can click on the Downloads tab.

To get numerous articles with teaching tips (for free), just go to and see what's there for you to use in your classroom.

(c) 2009 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "The Ph.D. of Productivity"(tm). Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do. Sound interesting? It is!

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