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Vocabulary study strategies

Strategies for Studying Vocabulary

 Let's pretend Friday there will be a big vocabulary test. You will be tested on thirty new vocabulary words from your science textbook. It is time to start studying! But how do you go about it? Reading the words and definitions over and over is not very effective. And besides, it's BORING! Read on for some interesting ways to study vocabulary.


Of course, there is always the tried-and-true flashcard method of studying vocabulary. You write the word on one side of an index card and the definition on the back. But this is still not very exciting. Why not "spice-up" your flashcards a little?
Draw pictures instead of writing the definitions. Let's say you are studying land forms. For the word plateau, you can draw a wide,
flat-topped hill. For the word valley, you can draw two mountains side-by-side. Then make an arrow pointing to the V-shaped space
between them. This will give you visual clues, making it easier to remember the terms and definitions.

Once the flashcards are made, you need to study them. You can make a game of it by putting the cards in a pile with the words facing up. Choose a card, look at the word, and then try to come up with the definition. Then, turn the card over to see if you are correct. Start two  new piles, one for the words you get correct, and one for the words you get wrong. Keep studying the words you miss, adding them to the correct pile as you get them right. It is very motivating to watch the correct pile grow! You can also study this way with a partner, keeping track of how many each of you get right. This makes for an interesting competition. Time yourself. FLUENCY means better retention.


Another effective tool is a fold-over study sheet. You can easily make one of these with a piece of paper. Simply fold it vertically about one-third of the way in from the left margin. Fold it so that the flap goes toward the back of the paper. Open the paper back up and write your vocabulary words in a column next to the left margin. Across the fold, on the right side of the paper, write the definition of each word. When you study, fold the word flap back so that you can't see it. Look at each definition and try to come up with the word that goes with it. You can also study the opposite way. Hold the sheet so that only the words are showing and try to come up with the definitions. Each time, unfold the sheet to check to see if you are correct. I suggest that if you use this method you alternate ink color matching the word to the definition, but switch colors every other word. This will be less confusing to your eyes.

Why not try making your fold-over study sheet with simple definitions? Instead of just copying the definition from a dictionary or
glossary, try putting it in easier terms. Try to make it so that someone in first grade would understand it. For example, a science vocabulary word might be "atom." An example of a simple definition for atom is: "a tiny building block." This is a definition that will help you to remember what an atom is.  KEYWORDS to help jog your memory when you see the full definition on a test.Of course, you won't be able to write this definition on the test. Your teacher will be looking for more sophisticated wording. This study method is only a way to try to get your mind to recognize the word.

If you are really struggling with vocabulary words, you might want to try a four-square note card for each new word. Divide an index card into four squares by drawing intersecting lines on it. In the top-left square, write the vocabulary word. In the square across from that, write the definition. In the bottom-left square write a sentence using the word. Make sure your sentence gives a hint at the meaning of the  word. In the last square, draw a picture that shows the definition. This kind of card will give you many clues to what each word means. This will make it easier to remember. This card is also referred to as a word map.


Most of these strategies give visual clues. They can also be used by auditory learners by reciting them orally. But what if you are a
kinesthetic learner? You can act them out! For example, if the word is magma, pretend that you are molten rock oozing through the cracks in the bedrock. If the word is meteorologist, give a pretend forecast in front of an imaginary weather map. You can use your creativity to act our almost any word. This will give you the movement you need in order to remember the words and their definitions. You can also pace, or walk around as you read your words. Bounce a ball or  use a hula hoop!!


No matter what method you use to study vocabulary, remember to practice, practice, and practice. Break you study time into ten to
fifteen minute sessions. Keep practicing until you are sure you know each definition. Then go over them once more for good measure. Use the time between shows on TV, commercial breaks to do a minute drill of a few cards. Mute the TV and see how many you can get correct before your show comes back on!

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