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Dear Otto: How do I teach vocabulary?

Posted by on March 24, 2016

tech questions

Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here. 

I discuss teaching vocabulary a lot on this blog. If you’re looking for specifics, try these posts:

But recently, I got into a conversation on one of the forums I frequent about how to teach vocabulary without ever giving a test or grading homework. Here are a few ideas:

  • Model it–authentically use it during class. For example, you might say this to students: “Save your work to your digital portfolio,” expecting them to understand the meaning of that last phrase because they’ve used it before.
  • When students have the opportunity to use the word, expect them to. Don’t let them get away with saying, “I forgot how to find my digital portfolio,” rather than allowing them to say, “I forgot how to find that thing.”
  • If students don’t know a definition and can’t figure it out, let them use your class’s native dictionary tool (like the right-click on the word in MS Word, then selecting ‘Look up’).
  • Do the Speak Like a Geek Presentation Board activity. This makes learning vocab fun.

Just like a foreign language that is learned in situ, students will learn vocabulary this way much faster than with tests or quizzes.

What would you add to this list?

To ask Otto a question, fill out the form below:

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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