Saturday, 9 August 2014

Valuing Vocabulary

Vocabulary building can be one of the most arduous tasks for pupils. Pupils can feel bombarded at the start of a topic when they are learning lots of new words thick and fast. In this post, I hope to show you some ways in which you can present vocabulary in a more fun, accessible way allowing for pupils to learn independently.


I'm a huge fan of wordles! Word clouds can often be found on the board as pupils enter the class. I find them to be a really engaging visual stimulus which instantly engage pupils as they enter the room. Pupils will start to look for words they already know as well as cognates while more able pupils may start to try to work out unfamiliar vocabulary using prior knowledge. 

I've also used wordles as a main activity having pupils categorise the vocabulary they can see. For example, pupils may highlight all the adjectives, circle the verbs and underline any nouns. This type of activity also helps with writing/speaking activities and serves as a one stop shop sentence builder.

I've also used Wordles as revision aids for Year 11. I created Wordles on the various topics and left them around the room with a Post-It attached. The Post-Its had 'challenges' on them which encouraged pupils to find '3 healthy foods', '3 drinks' and '5 infinitives' for example. Ultimately, they left the room with lists of topic specific vocabulary without having to sift through revision guides, vocabulary lists or previous work. 

It's also a great homework to set. Pupils can be as creative as they want making the words into shapes, using different colours for word types or making the most common words the biggest and boldest on their page. - easy to use but cannot cusotmise shapes. - more stylised than Wordle - Allows your to import your own shapes.

Group Challenge

Get images and vocabulary blown up on to an A3 sheet and split the class into teams. In turns, one person from each group comes to the front of the class where you show them the A3 sheet for 15 seconds. The pupils have to remember the placement of the images and words and relay this information to their group. The aim of the game is for the groups to replicate your A3 sheet as closely possible. This type of activity challenges pupils recall, team building and communication skills all in one fell swoop!


Tarsia is a free to download resource originally intended for Maths puzzles. However, it's great for the language classroom too. You can type in TL phrases or words as well as English or images depending on what you would prefer the students to match up. I tend to do TL and English so that my students have accurate translations of longer sentences but I find images to vocab works best to introduce items in a clothes/food topic. The beauty of Tarsia is that once the resource has been made and laminated it can be used over and over for coming year groups or as a revision activity. Tarsia allows you to create a variety of different puzzles whether it be its signature pyramid shaped puzzle, dominoes or whole class activities where each member has a piece of the puzzle.

Here are some examples:

This would create a triangle puzzle.

Future Tense
sentence starter dominoes

A completed triangle puzzle:

Free download can be found here:

Here are some examples of Year 11 work where they have matched up verbs and annotated with language that they could use with the verb in question.

As Tarsias are a great way of presenting lots of vocab in one fell swoop, I've started creating sheets like the one below for pupils to fill in so they have everything they need in one place.


Venn Diagrams

Venn Diagrams are another great way of getting pupils to think about language in different contexts or cross topic. I often find that pupils do not automatically reuse/recycle the language they've been given and this style of activity really makes them think about the language they use frequently and how the can bring previous knowledge back to the forefront.

Here is an example of a Venn Diagram linked to the healthy living topic. This was originally found on the former MFL Sunderland, now Lightbulb Languages, and adapted. I asked pupils to then decorate their Venn Diagrams and they were used as A3 posters to help with the topic.

Find '...' In The Text

This is a pretty basic one to carry out that can be jazzed up somewhat. Instead of just giving pupils a list of vocab to find within a text, you could set them a challenge by ranking sentences based on complexity and link it to a target level/grade. For example, green sentences are worth 3 points, orange 5 and red 7. A*-A candidates need to amass 23 points within 5 mins, B targets 20 points and so on and so forth. It's differentiated but still allows for pupils to have a wide range of vocabulary to use in CA.

You could also number sentences within a text and ask pupils to find the number that matches with the English sentence. You could potentially number too many sentences to make pupils fully read the text before jumping to a conclusion after seeing one word. Giving them some comprehension questions to answer first will also ensure their understanding of the text.

Find The Vocabulary

This is quite a simple activity and one that I do quite a lot. Instead of being stuck to the board at the front and presenting vocabulary in a rigid fashion with pupils repeating etc, allow them to get up and explore. Place the vocabulary around the room and give them a list in English or TL to go and find the translations for. Encourage pupils to use their previous knowledge to work out 'easier' vocabulary while using dictionaries for more difficult phrases. Include images to help weaker pupils with the possibility of even throwing in Red Herrings to stretch and challenge your more able.

Have you got any great ideas for presenting vocabulary?
Leave a comment below or contact me at @MLMusings


  1. This is great! You can also drop several copies of vocab on the floor and they have to physically pick then up and match them to the English. But chaotic but memorable! I have a blog post on revising vocab using balloon towers:

  2. Vocabulary, much more than grammar, is the key to your child understanding what she hears and reads in school; and to communicating successfully with other people. For this reason it is very important for her to quickly build up a large store of words. helps your child to build his vocabulary with a thematic approach.
    Start Learning..!!

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