Teaching How To Define Curriculum Vocabulary in Speech

Whether your students have specific vocabulary goals or they are simply trying to learn curriculum vocabulary, teaching vocabulary is a must during speech time! But when we take into account all of the vocabulary words for all of the subjects your student is taking, this can seem like a daunting task! How can we teach students how to define curriculum vocabulary and get anything else done? Let’s take a look at some fun, time-saving ways to teach vocabulary during speech time! 

What It Is 

You can begin by asking the student if they have any prior knowledge of what the word means. Take a look in the text to see if the student can find any context clues that might give him or her an idea of what the word means. Once the student has heard or read the definition of the word, you can work together to increase their understanding of the meaning of the word in several ways! 

  • Map it! Write the word in the center of a piece of paper and brainstorm to write related words on the paper around it. 
  • Give the students words on a notecard. Have them sort the words into a pile of synonyms and another pile of unrelated words. 

What It’s Not

An effective way for students to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of an unfamiliar word is to decide what it’s not. For example, if the vocabulary word that the student is learning is something like “delight”, they would identify words that do not describe delight. 

Students could do an activity like the mapping activity described above, where they write the word in the center of the page, and words that don’t describe it around the edges. Using our example of “delight”, you and the student might brainstorm words like “disgust”, “horror”, or “sadness”. 

Fun With Pictures

Using pictures is a great way for students to review the meanings of unfamiliar words. There is a lot you can do with pictures, such as: 

  • Give the student two or three pictures, and let them choose the picture that represents the meaning of the word. 
  • Let the student search through a newspaper or magazine, looking for pictures relating to the word's meaning. 
  • Let the student draw a picture that shows the word’s meaning. 
  • Let the student find or draw pictures of antonyms or non-examples of the word, and then draw an X or a line through those pictures. 

Try It Out

The last step to mastering the meaning of an unfamiliar vocabulary word is using it! Using new vocabulary words can happen in writing or speaking. To determine if your student is using their new word or words correctly, strike up a conversation with your student about a topic that is related to that vocabulary. Or, give them a writing prompt that requires them to use the vocabulary correctly. Your student will be well on their way to mastering these new words! 


Want a fun way to work on defining vocabulary without the prep and more activities for your older speech and language students? Then check out my Which Definition is Best resource for fun vocabulary activities!