Create a fun pairing. If a new word students will encounter in an upcoming lesson sounds a little like another word they know, put the two together. One I will always remember is encumber and cucumber. When I taught ‘encumber’ to my students I drew this picture of the word pairing and it helped the word stick quickly in their minds. If you have more time or for words that you feel are more important, the students can come up with the pairings and drawings. The fact that they could laugh at my sad art skills made it that much more memorable for them, too.
Have a hand motion. If a new word can be represented with a hand motion, you can briefly teach and then move on to the next part of the lesson. Each time the word comes up, incorporate the hand motion, and they’ll remember the meaning without you having to take extra time to review it.
Come up with a symbol. Some words might be easily represented with a symbol of some kind. When this is the case, have them draw the symbol next to the word each time they see it or write it and they will soon internalize the meaning. For example, you could put a dollar sign next to the word currency or this circular arrow next to the word revolve.
Add rhythm to it. For short definitions, put the word and definition into a quick chant or rhythm. After saying it a couple of times, the students will have it memorized and you’ll probably see one or two shoulders bouncing later on in class as they sing it under their breath.
Make an anchor chart. An anchor chart is basically a poster you can refer back to throughout a unit. If there are vocabulary words that they need to know, but maybe aren’t so important you want to take lots of time to teach them, write the words and their definitions on a poster and keep it hanging up in the room. Then whenever the words come up, students can quickly reference it and move on. For more important words, you can add some of the above strategies to help them stick.
Don’t forget the word wall! For any subject, having some wall space dedicated to vocabulary is a great strategy. Save this for the important words that you want kids to internalize long term, or change out the words with every unit. Either way, having the words there consistently, especially with pictures or symbols included, can go a long way in helping students learn the words.