Fun Ways to Introduce New Vocabulary in the Early Years

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Written by Holly (Teach Starter)

As he took a lick of the cut up lime he said – “This lime tastes sour!”

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Whilst many children learn the meaning of many new words indirectly through everyday exposures, introducing a word of the week into an early years classroom will not only expand your students’ vocabulary awareness but provide some other fun learning opportunities as well. However, simply saying the word, providing a definition and adding the word to a word wall is not going to provide the same outcome! Much research has been done to show that children need to be exposed to new vocabulary between 15-20 times. Only then will the student learn the word and have the confidence to use that word in the correct context. So, we’ve decided to give you some hints and tips for fun ways to introduce new vocabulary in the early years classroom.

Kids with speech bubbles.

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Super Fun Ways to Experiment with New Vocabulary in the Classroom

Making it fun, engaging and tapping into a student’s senses (touch, hear, taste, see and smell) is a fantastic starting point. Get creative and mix it up!

(1) Use a Mystery Box or Bag

Pick some objects that may help your students work out what the word of the week is – not only will this help your students to visualise the word but it also brings an element of suspense and excitement.

For example – pull out a stinky sock and hold your nose. You could say “What’s a word that I could use to describe this sock?”!

Lady holding a stinky sock.

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(2) Use Your Body

If your students can act out the word, such as ‘mysterious’ or ‘relaxed’ for example, get them to act out the word with their bodies. Or, perhaps it’s a word that they will be able to feel, such as the word ‘rough’. Students could take off their shoes to feel the rough rocks beneath their feet.

Sensory learning word of the week activities.

(4) Put it in a Sentence

Our word of the week resources are great for this as we have already come up with a great kid-friendly sentence you could say to your students. They also have a simple kid-friendly definition that you can provide to your students too!

Once you feel they have a fairly good handle on the word – get them to come up with their own sentence and display all of their sentences for other students to read.

Word of the week resources.

(5) Find the Word in Books

Engaging with the new vocabulary through children’s literature is also another fantastic way to further enhance your students’ knowledge of the word in another context.

Get organised and provide your Teacher Librarian with a list of say 10 new words you’ll be covering and see if they can find some books for you to use!

Teacher reading to students.

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(6) Get Creative

Dip into their creativity and have students draw a picture that would explain the word to someone else.

Young boy doing a drawing.

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(7) Create a Meaningful Display

It’s important to revisit other words that the children have been exposed too as well. So creating a word wall with a twist is helpful. A word wall that has meaning for the students in your class. For example, if your students really engaged with the stinky sock for the word stinky, attaching this sock to the display with the word stinky will create that connection for your students.

Engaging word wall ideas.

(8) Explore the Senses

Depending on the word, you might be able to complete a Five Senses Graphic Organiser about the word. I’d do this together as a class and then add the graphic organiser to my display for that particular word!

The five senses poster.

Check out our collection of Word of the Week resources to help with vocabulary ideas!

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