Why is Vocabulary Instruction Important?
Vocabulary instruction is a crucial component of developing successful readers. Over the years, multiple studies have indicated that reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge have a meaningful relationship. Students with larger vocabularies tend to perform better in reading comprehension activities than those with a poor vocabulary.
Vocabulary instruction does not only consists of explicitly teaching students new words and having them practice the meaning of those words. Effective vocabulary instruction teaches students to tackle unfamiliar words and derive meaning from them as they are used in multiple contexts. Vocabulary activities in 3rd grade that encourage students to work with word meanings and applying words in different situations is a great way to build vocabulary in young learners.
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How Do You Build Vocabulary in the Classroom?
As teachers, we want to do as much as possible to help our students build vocabulary and thrive as readers. Here are some ways to to build your students’ vocabulary.
1. Provide multiple vocabulary exposures through different types of contexts.
2. Allow students to work with words in different ways such as orally and through reading and writing.
3. Give students opportunities to make connections between new words and their prior knowledge.
4. Introduce unfamiliar vocabulary in a text prior to reading.
Vocabulary Task Cards & Center Activities
Enrich your 3rd grade students’ vocabulary with these fun and engaging literacy center activities!
Fun Vocabulary Activities for Third Grade
When I taught 3rd grade ELA, incorporating vocabulary activities during literacy centers was one of my favorite ways to get students working with new words. Task cards are a great way to support your vocabulary instruction because they expose students to new words and give them multiple opportunities to engage and apply them to different contexts.
Context Clues Scoot Task Cards
These context clues task cards expose third and fourth students to higher level vocabulary with words. Students will be exposed to words such as migrate, conserve, ancient, bare, and many more. Using their knowledge of the different types of context clues, they will identify the meaning of each underlined word as it is used in the sentence.
Turning task cards into scoots is a win in my classroom. Something about the combination of being out of their seat and able to walk around always gets students excited. I tape each task card around the room, give students a clipboard with their response sheet, and let them move around as they answer each question. The context clue scoot includes task cards with multiple choice questions. Students will simply read the sentence featuring an underlined word, and then choose which word has the same meaning. Students write the multiple choice letter on their graphic organizer and keep on scooting!
Multiple Meaning Matching Activity
Let’s face it. English can be weird, especially for our English language learners, it can be downright confusing. Many English words have several meanings which can leave native and nonnative speakers alike with muddled minds. That’s why it’s important for us to teach our students to use context clues to understand the vocabulary words in a sentence.
For this multiple meaning words activity, students will be given task cards with fill-in-the-blank sentences and word cards which will be displayed face up on the table. As students read the sentence, they must choose the word that correctly fits and make a match.
This activity exposes students to homonyms and how to differentiate between their meanings. This engaging vocabulary game is perfect for literacy centers or small groups.
Synonym Matching Game
As students learn more words, they’re able to associate them with other words that they might already know. That’s how vocabulary is built!
One of our favorite vocabulary center activities consists of matching games. My students get so competitive within their small groups! Synonym matching is basically memory. Flip all of the cards upside down and have students flip over two cards on their turn. Students will try to find the synonyms that match. This is an engaging way to build vocabulary without students even realizing it’s happening! Let the competition begin with this activity! Who can find the most matches?
Antonym Matching Game
As we’re teaching vocabulary, it’s important for students to learn antonyms or non-examples of words too. That’s because students need to be aware of the relationship between words. Having an understanding of antonyms helps students expand their vocabulary. This antonym task card matching game encourages students to create opposite vocabulary matches.
Synonym & Antonym Task Cards
This activity not only teaches students how to use context clues to identify the meaning of an unknown word, but it also exposes students to synonyms and antonyms. After identifying the word’s meaning, students will expand their connection by trying to think of what word has the same and opposite meaning. This is a great vocabulary center activity to enrich your higher-achieving students.
I love using these for partner work and having students discuss and justify their answers with one another.
Prefix & Suffix Spinner Vocabulary Activity
Understanding and applying prefixes and suffixes to root words is an important skill in third grade. In this activity, students are expanding their vocabulary by creating new words with affixes.
During this literacy center, students will draw a base word card. For example, the base word may be “read”. Students will then spin the prefix or suffix spinner to try to create a word with “read”. For example, if the student spun “re” then they will make the word “reread”. This word makes sense! However, if students had spun “dis” the word “disread” is not a real word. Students only keep their base word cards if they were able to create a real word.
Hands-on activities like the ones above make vocabulary instruction fun and engaging for elementary students. I love seeing students excited about literacy centers and about learning new words. No matter how you’re practicing and reviewing vocabulary this year, know that vocabulary instruction will set up your students for reading success. I hope that these vocabulary activities liven up your literacy centers and get your students excited about learning!