Word Awareness

Feb 2, 2009 by

Creating “word aware” classrooms is an important first step in building students’ vocabulary skills.  We need to intentionally focus on vocabulary and make word learning a part of every day, not just during formal vocabulary instruction (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2002).

Word of the Day

This concept has been around for years, but it is still a great way to foster word awareness in our classrooms.  To add spice to this activity, try introducing the word of the day by giving several clues throughout the day or by having students guess the word in the form of 20 Questions.  Many websites offer a “word of the day” feature.  Here are a few:
Word Central
Merriam Webster

Daily Word Hunt

Designate a bulletin board, chart paper, or section of the chalkboard for students to record new, interesting, or unusual words.  Set aside a few minutes daily to discuss these words.  Awarding points to teams whose members add words to the chart provides incentive.  Additional points may be added when students use the words in context throughout the day.  Younger students enjoy ringing a deli bell when they add words or use the words in context.   A good way to introduce this daily activity is by reading aloud Donavan’s Word Jar by MonaLisa DeGross.  Donavan collects interesting words and stores his collection in a jar.  He runs into a problem when his jar becomes too full.  He eventually solves his problem and discovers the power of words.  A study on word learning in the middle elementary grades suggests that this intentional focus on words has great impact on students’ overall word learning (Beck, Perfetti, & McKeown, 1982).

Vocabulary Parade

Read aloud the book Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frazier.  Then have your own vocabulary parade.  Visit Debra Frasier’s Website for suggestions.






This is a tool to help students improve their word choice in their own writing.  In a writing notebook or writing folder, have students designate a section for “word-catches.”  Before introducing a new genre of writing or a writing topic, have students brainstorm lists of words from a designated category. This activity could also be completed on chart paper or overhead and then transferred to one page that is added to a Class Word Book or to a Quality Writing Notebook.  This book becomes a wonderful reference for students when they are looking for interesting words to add to their writing.

Mystery Words and Phrases

door creaking
howling wind
whirling wind
dark, shadowy cloud
foul smell
heart beating rapidly
tiptoe through the hall
full moon


Word-catching category suggestions:

people words
city words
outdoor words
harsh words
country words
busy words
color words
tasting words
sports words
holiday words
season words
career words

space words
family words
cold words       
weather words
…and many more!

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