A Word A Day – Building Vocabulary During Independent Reading

I am feeling really lucky this year. I have the kind of class that tries everything you throw at them, and does it with gusto.

Like when one of my students who visits our ESL teacher came back to class with a little notebook and explained that he was trying to find awesome and interesting words to fill it with. And he agreed to share this plan with the whole class. And just like that, everyone wanted a notebook to keep vocabulary in too.

Coincidentally, we had also just introduced the CAFE strategy “Tune Into Interesting Words.”

Once this idea started to spread like wildfire, kids were coming up to me left and right wanting to share the words they found in their writing. Since we had a few extra minutes the first day, I let one person share a word they had found.

And since we are such a gung-ho bunch? It’s become a daily routine.

Each day, during Read to Self, each person keeps an eye out for interesting words – they can be words they know, or words they don’t. They record them in their notebooks…

At the end of Read to Self, one person volunteers to share their word, which I record on a sticky note.

Then, they read the sentence where they found the word. We do a quick turn and talk about what everyone thinks the word means based on the sentence.

A few people share out their ideas. We try to decide what part of speech the word is and come up with a possible definition.

Then, we use the classroom iPad to look up what the word actually means. I LOVE this Learner’s Dictionary from Merriam-Webster. The definitions are much easier to use than a traditional dictionary – I hate it when you have to look up words in the definition to understand the word!


Once we know the part of speech and the definition from the website, we come up with a definition in our own words. I record it on a sticky note.

Then later, I will let the student who volunteered the word write everything on a card and we put it up on the board!

This has been such an authentic was to incorporate vocabulary into our day! If we don’t have time to get to a vocabulary word, I hear about it! Everyone is involved, and I’ve already seen some of the words we discuss popping up in their writing.

I’ve never been great at incorporating vocabulary instruction into our days, but my students’ enthusiasm and excitement has made this one of my favorite parts of the day! I can’t wait to see all the words we will have as the year progresses.

If you are interested in your students learning a word a day I created a resource with directions, ideas for extensions and printables to help you get started. You can check it out in my TpT store by clicking the picture below.

The cover of a teaching resource with resources for vocabulary. The picture shows blue vocabulary word cards hung on a cabinet with the words "Word A Day" below them.

How do you incorporate vocabulary into your day? I’d love to hear more ideas to help this time become even more effective!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Melissa O'Bryan

    I'm always working to improve our vocabulary instruction too. It's so hard to find authentic ways to incorporate new vocabulary. I'm so glad you have an Amazing class this year. Enjoy every minute. 🙂

    Wild About Fifth

  2. Anonymous

    I love this idea! It is something I am working on too!


  3. Unknown

    I'm excited to give this a go in my classroom. 4th year in 5th and always looking for better things!

  4. Unknown

    Where did you get your letters and definition for expanding vocabulary? I really like it!

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