How to retain new vocabulary

Review, review and more review is the way to help children retain new vocabulary.

"I know that word, Mom," says the child lookin

Too often the push by teachers is to teach more words rather than to solidify the words students already “learned.”  The result is that the words practiced weeks ago don’t stick in students’ minds.

What can you do to make words stick?

Suppose one week you teach ten or twelve new words to a student.  That week you review the words daily—perhaps asking the student to draw each word’s meaning one day, or to have a spelling bee kind of review another day, or to write the words in sentences another day.

The next week you teach ten or twelve new words.  You use the same kind of daily review, but you include a few words from the previous week’s list which have caused the most problems.

For the third week of vocabulary instruction, instead of introducing new words, intensively review the combined words of the previous two weeks.  Perhaps you could offer fill-in-the-blank worksheets with a bank of vocabulary words at the top of the sheet.  Or during a writing lesson, suggest composing a paragraph using ten of the words from both lists.  Offer a prize (a bell rung in a student’s honor or a sticker) if the student can find one of the new vocabulary words in the ordinary course of the day’s work.

During the fourth week, introduce another set of new words, using various strategies.  Repeat some of the words from the previous weeks during the daily review.

During the fifth week, do not introduce new words; instead focus on words from the first three weeks which are difficult to remember and which are likely to be used or encountered by the student.  Focus on useful words.

Learn new, review.  Learn new, sweeping review.  Continue this pattern, spending as much time on learning new words as reviewing old ones, and your student will remember vocabulary words.

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