SOS Top Ten for Building Vocabulary

Welcome to our special SOS Top Ten series. In this edition, we highlight some of the most popular ways to use Spotlight on Strategies (CDN Version) to help students build robust vocabulary.

The ability to understand what is read or heard is directly linked to a student’s command of vocabulary. Understanding the relationships between words and content helps students negotiate within and across texts, leading to deeper comprehension. 

Instructional strategies and Discovery Education digital media help students visualize, make connections, and explore definitions in interactive ways to build vocabulary.

We hope you’ll try one or more of these strategies and share your experience with us in the comments or the DEN Online Community.


Vocab Scavenger Hunt (CDN Version) incorporates movement to help students demonstrate their understanding of new vocabulary. As they watch or listen to the media, student clap when they hear one of the selected vocabulary words and then share the definition.


Vocabulary Stepping Stone (CDN Version) reinforces vocabulary acquisition by first focusing students on teacher-selected vocabulary words from a media selection and then having them watch/listen for and arrange the words in the order they occur in that media.


Scrambled Please (CDN Version) asks students to use their understanding of a topic to arrange pieces of a text in logical order. The teacher scrambles words, sentences, or even paragraphs before giving it to students to unscramble.  Adapt this strategy for vocabulary instruction by scrambling words and definitions.


Connect The Dots (CDN Version) emphasizes the importance of making text-to-self connections. Students map out, label, and and link dots between themselves and content they are learning from digital media. Adapt this strategy for vocabulary instruction by having students make links between vocabulary words and the overall topic.


Instagram-in (CDN Version) asks students to represent what they’ve learned with images, short comments, and hashtags put together in the style of an Instagram post. Adapt this strategy for vocabulary instruction by asking students to build an Instagram post that explains a specific word.


Vocabulary Quadrants (CDN Version) provides an organizational tool called a Frayer Map to help students define and explore a concept. This multi-faceted process of examining a vocabulary term results in a deeper understanding of not just the word, but its relationship to a broader body of knowledge.


Collage (CDN Version) uses media to provide context for new learning. Students explore a new concept through a collection of images and are challenged to make about how the images related to each other. Adapt this for vocabulary instruction by creating vocabulary-specific collages.


Reminds Me Of (CDN Version) asks students to indicate when they make a connection to a piece of media by making a movement — such as putting their hands on their head — and then explaining the connection. Adapt this for vocabulary instruction by asking students to make connections to specific content-related vocabulary words.


Concept Circles (CDN Version) uses a graphic organizer to help students analyze the relationships between vocabulary words and the content they are studying.


LOL (CDN Version) asks students use their understanding of a topic, their sense of humor, and a digital image to illustrate content as a meme. Adapt this strategy for vocabulary instruction by asking students to illustrate their understanding of a vocabulary word as a meme.


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One Comment;

  1. Jeannine Shields said:

    These are great. Thanks for sharing these simple to implement Spotlights on Strategies for developing vocabulary skills. I’m sure many teachers will benefit from these.

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