Something I like to do with my sixth graders is start each unit off with a vocabulary activity. There are several different things I’ve done, sometimes I take about 30 words from the unit and have the kids put them in categories before I tell them what the words mean. I let them choose the categories as long as they have at least 4 or 5. Kids work in groups then share with the class. We compare categories and see which ones are similar – it’s a great way to introduce words that kids have never heard of before.
Recently we’ve started our unit on Ancient India which can include some pretty deep content. I gave the kids a list of vocab words – about 15. The kids looked at the list of words and worked as a group to write down what they thought each word meant. It was fun for me to hear what they thought the definitions were. They used prior knowledge when they came across terms they’ve heard of before, but of course some of the meanings the kids just pulled out of nowhere. After seeing my reaction to their thoughts (lots of laughter), they were hooked and wanted to know more. Today they used internet resources, mainly our Discovery Ed. Techbook, to find the real meanings. I turned this into a competition – the first group to have all the definition correct won a prize.
The kids have vocab knowledge before we even get into the meat of the unit – it’s a simple lesson that my kids usually enjoy!