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High School — Reading
Acquisition of Vocabulary


Core Resources

Acquisition of Vocabulary


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Activities: Advanced Work

These activities can help your students reach the next level in their understanding of Acquisition of Vocabulary.

Personal Dictionaries

Have students create personal dictionary entries for unfamiliar words they encounter independently or as a class. The personal dictionary entries should include the following:

  • What the student thinks the word means after defining it in context;
  • The dictionary definition (or definitions, if there is more than one);
  • The part of speech;
  • Usage note;
  • Illustrative example (using the word in context);
  • Root definition and language of origin;
  • Synonyms;
  • Antonyms;
  • Homophones and their definitions;
  • History of the word as indicated by the Oxford English Dictionary. Here students may encounter a great deal of information about the word. Encourage them to select the content that helps them understand how the word came to mean what it means today.
Expression Etymology

Have students explore the origin of such common expressions as "a stitch in time saves nine" and idioms like "it's raining cats and dogs." Ask students to write a history of the expression or idiom, including country of origin, the literal meaning of the expressions, its figurative meaning and how its meaning and use have changed over the years. For an added challenge, ask students to predict how the expression could change in the future in order to keep it relevant. Then have students present their findings to the class.

Annotated Analysis

A number of texts available to students have footnotes or endnotes that identify unusual vocabulary or various literary devices used by an author. In this activity, students use their figurative language skills to prepare their own annotated passages. Ask students to select a text that contains figurative language. Then have them identify the figurative language the author uses--similes, metaphors, personification, idioms and allusion--explaining what the language means. Students should also define any difficult vocabulary and identify examples of the context changing the connotation of a word.

Ask students to put this information together so that it can easily be used by other students. For example, a student may choose to present the information in book format, with the text on the left-hand pages and the analysis on the right-hand pages. Or they may choose to keep their analysis within the text but color-code each literary device.