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Word Graffiti

A deep thinking strategy for vocabulary.

I'm breaking out of my blogging silence today with a post about a task I call "Word Graffiti."  This activity is perfect before you have your students read anything with some vocabulary they've not seen before.  I had my class read a short article I wrote on the Holocaust.  There were some words I felt I needed to include in the text, but I knew they wouldn't have heard them in any other context.

The words were:
- corruption
- devastation
- inhumane
- vainly
- revolt
- ghettos
I wrote these words each on a whiteboard and placed them on table groups around the room.  You could do the same with chart paper, I was just trying to be a bit environmentally friendly.
Students traveled the room in table groups, and I gave them about 3-5 minutes per board.  Each group had only 1 white board marker to use, so they had to work together to decide what they wanted to write.  You can put down anything you think the word means or reminds you of.  You are to read what groups before you wrote, but you don't need to agree with their ideas.  That being said, you can't erase them either.

As you can see, there were a lot of good connections and ideas floating around my classroom.  My favourite is "electricity" for "revolt" because of the "volt" part of the word.  Great ideas, but many were way off.  I did have one student who knew "vainly" because I guess her mother tells her she is vain for looking in mirrors all the time.  Ha!

This task took us about 45 minutes from starting instructions to final discussion.  We didn't read the article that day.  However, the next day, after a night of processing they were all pros with those 6 big words!  And, months later, they all still know what each 6 mean, which is most important.

What do you do to get your students thinking about vocab before reading?

 A language arts strategy to have kids consider vocabulary before reading.

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  1. I am a Spanish teacher and I think i'll use a similar process to help them practice new vocabulary! They have to use the words in a sentence! Love this!

  2. Just came across this activity and I plan on trying it with my middle schoolers. Thanks for sharing,