Visual Vocabulary

This week in my class we are starting a new unit that comes with several vocabulary words that my 7th grade students aren’t used to hearing. Before jumping right in to the content I want to make sure that they have the background knowledge they need to comprehend what we are learning, so we are focusing first on the new vocabulary.

One of my favorite vocabulary strategies is the Verbal Visual Word Association or VVWA.  The traditional method of writing 20 vocabulary words and their definitions never seemed to work very well for my students, or me for that matter, and the best part about VVWA is that there is very little writing involved.  The strategy starts with a 4 square graphic organizer with each square labeled as follows: (1) Word, (2) Visual, (3) Definition, (4) Association.

The word and definition squares are self explanatory, but it is the other two boxes that I find really help the students understand the words.  In the visual square students have to draw a picture that somehow represents the word.  I always make sure and emphasize to my students that there is no right or wrong visual, it only has to make sense to them.  This is very helpful for lower level students or students who struggle to read because it is easier for them to make connections to the pictures rather than a detailed definition that may be above their reading level.

The association square can be a variety of things, typically it is a personal connection that the students can make to the word to help them find a real life example.  If a vocabulary word doesn’t play well to a personal connection, I tell students to either put the definition in their own words, or come up with an example of the definition word that will help them remember it in the future.

In my classroom I have a large bulletin board set up as the Great Wall of Words, and I make it a competition for the students to try and get their VVWA up on the wall.  They really get into the visuals when they know that other people may be looking at their finished product.

You can find a blank VVWA graphic organizer and examples of student products here.

What vocabulary strategies do you use in your classroom?

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