If the definition of a word is not understood, it isn’t filed in long-term memory. Therefore the student doesn’t remember it because true understanding never occurred. Because kids can be good at memorizing definitions, we have to be mindful about looking for true indicators of learning. Our goal is for the student to know the meaning of the word, and understand what the word means when it is used. This includes using the word and understanding it being used by someone else. The bottom line, is that we want the student to have a new word.
The ideal vocabulary words to teach are words that are considered Tier 2 vocabulary. Words in this category have a synonym the student knows. This way you can create a definition using a synonym that is already understood.
For example, the word tedious is a synonym for ‘boring’. It’s a special kind of boring because it’s ‘having to do something that is boring’. So, I would define tedious as “having to do something boring”.
It could also be defined as “doing something that is a pain in the neck” (of course this definition is only good if the student knows this phrase. My daughter, Lily, knows it well thanks to Grandma Giel. LOL)
Acting out doing tedious things and writing the words and the modified definitions on flashcards are good ideas for studying. This brings in movement and visuals. Then, practice using the word over and over again. Have fun with it. This strategy brings in auditory input. Major bonus points for acting quite dramatic as you use the words in context. This strategy really takes the meaning of the words home.
Here are some examples:
I do not like picking up all of these peanut shells. This is tedious work. It’s so boring. It is tedious.
There are 15 buttons on this shirt. Buttoning them is tedious. I get bored buttoning all of those buttons. This is tedious work.
I hate picking the pits out of cherries. It is so tedious. It takes forever to get all those pits out. This job is tedious! It’s so boring. I wish I did not have to do it.