4 Quick Tips for Teaching Writing With Vocabulary

Merging writing with vocabulary is like crafting a masterpiece with the finest materials. The bricks are the words and the writing is the structure they form. When students enrich their writing with intriguing vocabulary, their ideas can take off, and their expressions gain depth. Plus, using vocabulary in writing is an effective way to ensure retention, as the act of writing engages the brain differently by solidifying word understanding. It’s a beautiful execution when both vocabulary and writing can be merged. 

Words bring precision, clarity, and color to writing, while writing offers words a place to display their best forms. This post will dive into the benefits of combining this powerful duo and the lasting impacts and improvements that writing with vocabulary can have on your students. If you want to skip the reading and go straight to listening, check out my podcast episode 148: Merging Vocabulary with Writing here! Also, in case you missed it, check out this link I’ve shared ( theliteracydive.com/vocabulary) where I put together a small sample set of a vocabulary resource that can be used in whole group, small group, or independently! 

So now let’s specifically highlight and focus on the benefits of writing with vocabulary and the easy ways to implement them together to create a powerful experience for your students and an incredible “knocking out two birds with one stone” execution for you.

Writing with Vocabulary Prompts
Vocabulary Writing Prompts are a quick and seamless way to start writing with vocabulary!

Writing With Vocabulary: Elevating the Quality

Vocabulary choice can hands down elevate the quality of academic writing that our students are encouraged to produce. Vocabulary is more than a list of words; it is the essence of expression and comprehension in written form. Consider vocabulary as a box of crayons, each color representing a unique shade of meaning, tone, and clarity. Just as subtle differences in color can change the entire mood of a painting, profound vocabulary choices can dramatically alter the impact of their writing all in the same.

Take a simple sentence like “She walked into the room” and infuse it with descriptive vocabulary: “She sauntered into the room with an air of confidence.” See the transformation? The sentence comes alive. Vocabulary breathes life into static descriptions, making writing an immersive experience for the reader, allowing them to feel the action instead of simply just seeing it.

Furthermore, vocabulary is a tool for precision and uniqueness in writing. Instead of settling for generic terms, students can be intentional with their word choice and select the right word that precisely conveys their intended meaning. For instance, instead of writing vague words like “big,” a student might choose “colossal.” When students are encouraged to play with vocabulary, they learn to perceive and appreciate the power of their OWN language choices and naturally begin to choose better words.

The confidence and empowerment that come from writing with vocabulary are priceless. Students become skilled at tailoring their language to their audience, purpose, and context. This skill extends beyond academics, becoming a life skill that teaches students to communicate effectively, think critically, and engage deeply with the world.

Writing With Vocabulary: Be Genre-Specific

Let’s think about how different genres of writing have their unique vocabulary demands. Exploring how vocabulary enhances writing style is something we should keep at the top of our minds. Different genres of writing are like different countries, each with its language, customs, and traditions. Just as you would need to learn a few phrases of Italian to navigate Rome comfortably, students need to master the unique vocabulary of a genre to communicate effectively within it. If not accustomed to these “languages”, you’ll feel lost, confused, and uninterested; all of which is not a place we want our audience to be when we write.

Narrative writing is like storytelling around a campfire. It demands descriptive words that paint pictures and evoke emotions. Persuasive writing, on the other hand, is similar to a debate stage where strong, assertive language and domain-specific terms are employed to convince and command attention. Then we have expository writing, which is comparable to a museum guide, requiring clear, information, and topic-specific vocabulary that educates and explains. Meanwhile, when it comes to poetic writing, vocabulary and the words used are expected to dance, just like in ballet. Through the use of figurative language and descriptive correlations, this type of genre will be executed in a way where the writing will allow for thought-provoking interpretation and reflection. 

Each of these genres has its lexicon- a set of a new number of words that students must become familiar with to write authentically within that genre. Teaching the demands of unique vocabulary words from different genres is essential for literacy. Writing with vocabulary in the specific genre empowers students to shift gears seamlessly between the languages of storytelling, argumentation, exposition, and poetry. With this skill, they become not just writers, but skilled translators of thought and purpose, and a newfound level of word knowledge. Recognizing and using the appropriate vocabulary for each genre is crucial for effective communication. Plus, this will automatically take our students’ limited vocabulary up so many notches. 

Writing with vocabulary prompts

Writing With Vocabulary: Use Real-World Simulations

What if I told you that writing prompts are not just exercises and that they can be simulations of real-world scenarios? Allowing our students to simulate real-world writing tasks is a great way to strengthen your students’ brainstorming and execution skills. Plus, it allows them to think about their audience and/or purpose for writing. Writing with vocabulary in mind and merging writing tasks can promote growth in both of these areas. 

Writing tasks come in the form of writing prompts. In this instance, using intentional vocabulary prompts can serve as the gateway to the real world, transforming abstract writing tasks into practical exercises that mirror the communication challenges students will face beyond the classroom. When we use vocabulary prompts that simulate real-world scenarios, we’re not just teaching students to write; we’re preparing them in a fun way to engage with a world that demands clarity, precision, and relevance in communication. 

Your students could compose letters to government officials about a community issue and use persuasive vocabulary, or craft a product description for a new invention that allows them the chance to dive into the role of innovators and marketers. You could also consider giving students a prompt that asks them to write informational blog posts on scientific discoveries, requiring them to sift through technical jargon and present complex and complicated ideas in an accessible way.

When students learn to navigate these diverse, real-life scenarios, they are forced to focus on an important skill such as communication, and are inspired to draw from their growing vocabulary collection. Writing with vocabulary and real-life scenarios in mind, not only meets the demands of the assignment, but also prepares them for the different and complex writing tasks they will encounter in their personal, academic, and future professional lives. We are in it for the long term, and this accomplishes that goal! 

Writing With Vocabulary: The Feedback Loop

Enter the feedback loop, a dynamic and reciprocal teaching strategy that intertwines writing with vocabulary, turning every assignment into a powerful learning experience. It blends expression and comprehension, reinforcing the relationship between newly acquired words and their effective use. 

If you have never heard about the feedback loop, I want to quickly explain it. The feedback loop in the context of vocabulary and writing instruction is a continuous cycle that involves teaching, application, feedback, and improvement. Here’s a breakdown of each stage:

1. Teaching

Initially, students are taught new vocabulary words, their meanings, and how they are used in context. This stage involves direct instruction, exploration, and initial practice.

2. Application

Next, students apply their understanding of these words by using them in writing tasks. This application is significant because it allows students to put into practice what they’ve learned in a way that is meaningful and requires higher-order thinking.

3. Feedback

After students have attempted to use new vocabulary in their writing, they receive feedback on their usage. Feedback should be specific, timely, and constructive. It highlights not only incorrect usage but also celebrates correct usage and understanding.

4. Improvement

Based on the feedback, students then revise their work, make improvements, and refine their understanding and usage of the vocabulary. This may involve re-teaching or further clarification from the teacher if necessary. It is important to remember that even a really well-written sentence can use revisions and become varied.

5. Reiteration

The cycle continues with the next piece of writing, further application, more feedback, and ongoing improvement. Over time, this loop helps to solidify a student’s grasp and retention of vocabulary.

The continuous cycle, the feedback loop, cultivates active learning, self-correction, and metacognition, empowering students to actively engage with their vocabulary choices and refine their language skills. The feedback loop fosters metacognition as students reflect on their word choices. They begin to ask themselves evaluative questions like: Does this word fit the context? Does it convey the right emotion or idea? Is there a better word to use? This reflective practice embeds vocabulary deeper into their cognitive framework, making it more likely that they will be able to retrieve and use these new words in the future. This is a major pedagogical strategy that truly encourages our students to take ownership of their learning.

The loop completes when students revise their work, applying the feedback they’ve received. This revision phase is more than mere editing; it’s an opportunity for students to engage actively with their vocabulary choices, and to refine and polish their word selections until their sentences read with clarity and precision.

By embracing the feedback loop in vocabulary instruction, you can cultivate a ground where vocabulary growth and writing skills flourish together. It turns every writing task into a chance to deepen vocabulary knowledge and every feedback session into a stepping-stone towards mastering language.

Writing with vocabulary prompts

Writing with vocabulary and merging the two is transformative. We can whole-heartedly empower our students with the understanding that crafting pieces for different purposes will be effective if they prioritize using richer tones of vocabulary and expression.  Every writing genre has its flavor, and it can be spiced up with vocabulary. Regular writing exercises solidify vocabulary acquisition, and feedback sessions for our students are crucial when allowing them to become self-reflective regarding their word choices in writing. 

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Hey, I'm Megan!

I am a literacy specialist and curriculum designer who loves sharing tips and ideas to help students thrive in literacy! It brings me joy to await those a-ha moments and to see light bulbs turn on!

I have a huge passion for reading and writing and love to co-mingle the two any chance I get! You can expect to learn new strategies and ways to keep your students engaged during your literacy block! I am so glad you’re here!

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