Research Based Methods for Teaching Vocabulary

Research Based Methods for Teaching Vocabulary

Over the course of my homeschooling career I have used multiple methods to increase my children’s vocabulary. We have used the word of the day, the word of the week, flash cards, learned Latin Roots… etc. You name it, if there is a way to learn and increase vocabulary I have tried it.

About a year ago, I came across an article that basically said there are two indicators of children having a large vocabulary. 1. The education of the parents at home and 2. How many books are found in a home.

The largest influence on students’ vocabulary is the sheer volume of reading they do, especially wide reading that includes a rich variety of texts~

Basically, it was saying that the more your children hear you speak higher level vocabulary words and if they read a lot of books, they will have the proclivity to internalize and use the vocabulary they have learned.

See how I threw that fancy word “proclivity” in there?

But perhaps you are prepping for the SAT or just want to work on increasing your children’s overall “smartness”, and you are too tired to use words like “proclivity.” Here are some tried and true research tested ways to increase vocabulary.

Out of Context words (ie. Flashcards, word lists)

  1. Use the vocabulary words in context. When you are defining the word, say it several times in context.
  2. Teach word parts (prefix and suffixes)
  3. Teach Synonyms and Antonyms of the words.
  4. Give Example sentences and non- examples
  5. Make the word a part of your conversations
  6. Be a detective and look for the words in your reading and every day life.

In Context: (ie. from books, school work, etc.)

  1. Use words that come directly from the literature or text books that they are reading. (If you need some great Literature suggestions check out this post)
  2. Circle or write down the unfamiliar word, so that you can come back to it.
  3. Use context clues to determine the meaning of the word.

Vocabulary Building Activities:

  1. Make up a story with the new word
  2. Create Silly Questions using the word.
  3. Create a mind map with the word. Grab this printable
  4. Have students draw pictures with the vocabulary word.
  5. Play Games like “Word Wizard

To play Word Wizard, pick a vocabulary word and learn what it means and how to use it. Each person that is participating has a designated amount of days to use that word in conversation as many times as they are able. It is up to the person(s) playing the game to call to attention any time they hear someone say the word. The person saying the word wins points if they can say the word casually in conversation without being noticed. The person with the most points at the end of the designated time frame (typically a few days to a week) wins.

Grab it here:

Vocabulary Words, SAT Words,

Vocabulary Map

Research has shown that effective vocabulary instruction is characterized by deliberate selection of words to be taught and frequent opportunities for students to interact with the words in meaningful contexts. Students need to be able to connect vocabulary with prior knowledge and hear and use the word repetitively. While we could show our children flashcards all day, the chance that they will retain any information outside of meaningful experiences is rather low.




Nagy, W. “Teaching Vocabulary to Improve Reading Comprehension.” Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 1988.

The Report of the National Reading Panel (2000)

Research Based Methods for Teaching Vocabulary

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.