Word Webs: A Vocabulary Activity with a Twist

December 09, 2014

Looking for a new vocabulary activity to engage your middle school or high school students? After students make webs of their vocabulary words, have their partners try to guess the word. Read on for directions and samples.
This year our school bought vocabulary books to be used in all of the 9-12 English classes. We looked at several different options at the end of last year and settled on Sadlier-Oxford’s Vocabulary Workshop. The series has multiple levels so each grade level has a different book, but all share the same structure.

Each unit begins with a passage that uses of majority of the twenty words in the unit (usually 16 out of the 20). These nonfiction passages are usually on topics of high interest to students. When we read these passages in class, I try to find a short video clip to pair with the reading to help bring the topic to life even more for students.

When we read the passage aloud in class, I ask the students to use Cornell Notes to help them process the vocabulary terms and main ideas in the text. In the left hand column, we record the key ideas. I usually stop the students at the end of each paragraph or two and ask them what important things we have read so far. In the right hand column, we record the vocabulary terms (in bold in the reading) and our predictions about the words’ meanings based on context clues.

I like this way of previewing the vocabulary terms because then the students have the definitions in student-friendly terms and can use these notes to help them complete their homework exercises, two of which are writing prompts which refer back to ideas in the reading passage.

This past week, I decided to change it up and preview our new vocabulary terms in a different way. While I think the Cornell Notes is really effective, doing them every other week as a whole class bores some of the students and too many students choose to be passive participants. While I cold call on all of the students at least once during our whole class note taking, in a large class that leaves a lot of the time that students may not be actively following along.

Looking for a new vocabulary activity to engage your middle school or high school students? After students make webs of their vocabulary words, have their partners try to guess the word. Read on for directions and samples.To increase participation and engagement, this week I tried having the students create word webs using their new vocabulary terms. The students were instructed to select four of their twenty vocabulary terms for which to create word webs. Each word web could include:

*part of speech
*definition (in their own words)
*a synonym
*an antonym
*an example
*a non example
*an original sentence
*an illustration (stick figures and word bubbles is always fine)

I asked my students to use at least four of the options above in each word web. If you ask students to include synonyms and antonyms or examples and non-examples, you may want to ask students to label each part. The twist to these word webs is that the vocabulary term should NOT be a part of the word web. This gives a partner the chance to identify the vocabulary term based on the clues of the web.

Looking for a new vocabulary activity to engage your middle school or high school students? After students make webs of their vocabulary words, have their partners try to guess the word. Read on for directions and samples.
I sampled the process for my students with a vocabulary term from the previous unit, “accomplice.” Together we discussed what part of speech the word would be, a definition, a synonym, an antonym, an example, a non example, an original sentence and an illustration. Then I set the students off to create their own.

After about 15 – 20 minutes, I asked students to switch their webs with a partner and determine the vocabulary term depicted in each web. When students switched back, they “graded” their partners’ accuracy and shared their scores with each other. This allowed the students to feel successful in two ways: they learned how well they did in determining their partners’ webs and also how clear their webs were for their partner to solve. The students had fun doing this and I will definitely do it again with them. This activity is great reinforcement for visual learners and could be used with any subject or grade level. You can find all of my resources for teaching Sadlier-Oxford and other vocabulary here.

For more vocabulary ideas and resources:

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5 comments

  1. Love these webs! I may need to try those out in my classroom during our word work time. Right now, I'm also teaching my students how to use the Cornell note model to take notes on a video or digital text! Such a great system :)

    Thanks for sharing.
    Glad I found your blog through Tried it Tuesday!
    Amanda
    My Shoe String Life

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  2. Good morning,

    I have just discovered this on Pinterest (obviously!)

    Could you please just clarify exactly what it is that you mean by 'non-example' - I'm not sure I really understand. Is it basically the 'antonym' of examples? ;)

    Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, that is exactly what a non example is. If the vocabulary term was "expedition," an example would be Columbus sailing to find America and a non example would be sitting on your couch. Above the vocabulary term is "accomplice," the example is Bonnie and Clyde, and the non example is a witness turning you in. A non example should be relevant, not something random.

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