Professional Development

July 16, 2023

4 Vocabulary Activities to Easily Boost Students’ Reading Skills

Teachers play a vital role in setting a strong foundation for their academic success. One of the key areas that significantly impacts a student’s reading journey is vocabulary development. By understanding the science of reading, we can use effective vocabulary activities and strategies to enhance vocabulary instruction in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classrooms.

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of vocabulary instruction and provide practical tips to help teachers foster a love for words and enhance your students’ reading skills.

Why Students Need Vocabulary Instruction

Vocabulary serves as a cornerstone for reading comprehension. Young readers who have developed strong decoding skills and fluency skills may be working towards developing strong comprehension skills. This is where vocabulary instruction comes in. Vocabulary is a piece of language comprehension. In fact, it’s an important piece that ultimately helps lead to skilled reading.

Without vocabulary knowledge, readers can struggle to comprehend what they are decoding when they don’t know what the words they decode mean. Once our readers begin to move towards more advanced texts, they are ready to spend more time focusing on the meaning of new words. We need to expose students to words outside of their daily oral language and build up their vocabulary knowledge.

The Science of Reading and Vocabulary

The science of reading emphasizes evidence-based practices that support effective reading instruction. By incorporating these principles into vocabulary instruction, we can maximize the effectiveness of our teaching methods. When it comes to applying the science of reading to vocabulary instruction, here are some areas to start with.

Phonemic Awareness

Before students can comprehend words, they must be able to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds within them. Engaging students in phonemic awareness activities, such as rhyming and sound blending, helps them develop strong phonological skills, facilitating vocabulary acquisition. You can read more about phonemic awareness HERE!


Phonics instruction bridges the gap between letters and their corresponding sounds. Introducing phonics in a systematic and explicit manner equips students with the skills to decode unfamiliar words independently, expanding their vocabulary.

Word Recognition

Encourage students to engage in repeated exposure to words. Regular reading practice, word walls, and word study activities can help familiarize students with high-frequency words, sight words, heart words, and word families, enhancing their ability to recognize and understand words efficiently.

Contextual Reading

Providing many opportunities for students to read in meaningful contexts strengthens their comprehension and vocabulary. Encourage independent reading, shared reading, and reading small group lessons where students can encounter words in diverse texts and understand their usage through context.

4 Must-Try Vocabulary Activities

Interactive Read Alouds

Engage students in interactive read-aloud sessions to expose them to rich and varied vocabulary. Pause during the reading to discuss the meanings of new words and encourage students to use them in their own sentences.

I have lots of interactive read aloud lessons already done for you! The monthly read aloud lessons intentionally feature vocabulary instruction and vocabulary activities.

You can check them out HERE!

Word Games and Activities

Incorporate word games, puzzles, and vocabulary-building activities to make learning fun. Activities like word scavenger hunts, vocabulary bingo, and word charades can spark enthusiasm and deepen students’ understanding of words.

Vocabulary in Context

When introducing new words, provide meaningful contexts through sentences, stories, or real-life examples. Encourage students to use the words in their writing and oral discussions, promoting their application and deeper understanding.

In the Oral Language Activities resource, you’ll find tons of activities to help build oral language, including vocabulary activities. You’ll find easy-to-assemble cards with teacher prompts and student prompts. It includes:

  • 21 Read Aloud Questions and Discussion Cards (for before, during, and after reading)
  • 21 Vocabulary Discussion Cards
  • 21 Social Scenario Cards
  • 12 Emotion Conversation Cards
  • 21 Teacher-Led Game Cards

These quick but intentional vocabulary activities are perfect for squeezing in some explicit vocabulary instruction.

Word Collecting and Journaling

Encourage students to maintain word journals, where they can record new words they encounter and their meanings. This allows students to revisit and reinforce their vocabulary knowledge, fostering retention and expanding their word bank. You can copy two to a page and make them journal size, or you can blow it up big with a poster maker machine at school and add it to your anchor charts!

I have a FREE Vocabulary Collecting recording page for you to use with your readers as you work to find new, exciting words to use to increase vocabulary knowledge. You can get it below!

By incorporating evidence-based practices and embracing the science of reading, you can provide effective vocabulary instruction for students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Remember, vocabulary development is a continuous journey. Through strong vocabulary activities and instruction, we can help develop solid language comprehension. Then, we can help our students become skilled readers who read to learn and enjoy!

Happy Teaching,



Want to use the latest research to boost your readers during small groups? Thisย FREEย guide is packed with engaging ideas to help them grow!

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your studentsย loveย and that areย easy to implementย for teachers.ย ย Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, youโ€™ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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