Here’s a way to make vocabulary stick

pinky-swearWhat if you introduced your students to new words the way you would introduce them to new people?

Patrick T. Randolph shared a great vocabulary activity with TESOL Connections this week. He decided to experiment with “personifying” vocabulary words with his students, assigning them identities via character sketches. They brainstormed together for the word “meticulous” and came up with a fantastic, legitimately quirky personality that could be described in no other way.

From there, he had students pair up to create profiles for each word, completing categories like age, appearance, schooling, and hobbies. The students then picked one word and described it orally to their partner, as if they were describing a friend, as a pre-writing warm-up. After a partner rotation, students describe their word orally again, then write up their sketches during class time. In the last stage, students form reading circles and, after hearing the sketches from their peers, write down sticking points for each word.

Randolph recommends using adjectives, idioms, and phrasal verbs for this activity, because they generate strong mental imagery. Students can’t help but connect with the words through this activity, and make “friends” with them — not easily forgotten!

I love this as a classroom activity, and it almost sounds fun enough to try at a dinner party! Are there any words in your mind that have distinct personalities? Have you tried an activity like this in your classroom?

1 Comment

Patrick T. Randolph April 28, 2015

Thank you, Marisa, for this post. I sincerely appreciate it. The activity
really is a great way to get the students involved with vocabulary


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