Saturday, March 10, 2012

Explorers Pack: Building Vocabulary

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Vocabulary is essential!! I think we all know that by now. Teaching it, well...that is another thing entirely!  I'm always on the look out for new things. Earlier this school year I attended a conference on teaching vocabulary to ELL (English Language Learners) students. I have been blessed to have had many ELL students over the years. I love these students! I know that they have a very difficult time, but they are always the students that want to truly learn!  Sometimes they are the interpreters/translators for their parents and they carry a great responsibility for their family. The amazing thing to me is that they are excited and eager to learn all they can.  Wow, to be bilingual as a child. What a fabulous thing!


I learned (again, I had forgotten) from the conference that sometimes you must teach backwards.

What?? Does?? That?? Mean???

I know you have heard of unpacking the lesson, right?  Well, that's just it.  Don't start off with the book or a long text.  Start with exposure to vocabulary.  They need to be able to recognize and pronounce the words that they will come in contact with daily for each unit.  It not only helps the ELL students, it helps the WHOLE class!

Warning...A Freebie is coming!!!

I took our explorers unit and decided to change things up. I made a power point with essential words.

I added a couple of other words too that I knew they would see in almost all of our lessons.  (Words like contribution and characteristics)

I then took the post test and highlighted words that I knew they would see together on the test and made a vocabulary phrases power point.

(At the beginning of our lesson each day, I would pull up the vocabulary and the phrases for them to practice.  Each day they were improving! They even made a game of how fast they could say the words and phrases.  It was fun!)

I also made a study sheet with the words and phrases that we were practicing in class for them to use to practice at home.

I also made them a study guide for the basics of explorers. I have been using these for awhile now. It really is easy to use.  It has the basics that students need to know before understanding the higher level things.

Parents LOVE it. They have a great resource that enables them to help their child! (The more you make things easier for parents, the more you will get out of them!)

The study guide is also fabulous for using in class to partner students up to make sure they are studying the correct basic content.


I decided to extend that learning into workshop. (Daily 3 is what I call it...I'm working up to 5.)
I thought we could do some sorting to practice syllables and parts of speech.  So, I created these...

Words to sort...

Syllable sheet to record their work...
Parts of speech sheet to record their work...

They work on this during "Word Work".  Students work in partners to say, sort, and record the words.  They turn in their papers after working.

I then made an explorers "I Have...Who Has..." game.

We played this later in the unit.  They loved it. We went two go-rounds with it.  (They wanted to play more, but time ran out! Like always...)

After all the vocabulary building, I introduced the text.  They did a wonderful job of reading and understanding the text.  Their test scores were higher.  I didn't have to help hardly anyone with a word on the test.  I have started to do all my lessons this way.  I think it will pay off.

I have put these items in a zip file for you to use.  I have left some things in word so that you may edit for personal use.  The graphics are from  (I put the things with graphics in an .xp file for license reasons.) If you have any trouble, please let me know.

Let me know what you think!  Enjoy! :)
The Zookeeper


  1. I am so glad to find someone else who teaches in VA. The explorers game will come in handy as we review for SOL's. Thanks,Colleen

    1. Yay!! I've scoured the Internet for other Virginians! Glad to know you are there! I hope the SOLs go well for you this year! :)Keep checking back. I have more review things coming!