Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

10.12.18Examples of Active Vocabulary Practice from our New Curriculum

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We’re writing a reading curriculum (hooray!) and that means daily review of lesson plans for me, which is great fun and lots of learning.

Thought I’d share some examples of how we do it from some recent lessons. Our vocabulary goal is to use lots of active practice to build word knowledge. Start with a great definition and then spend your time applying words- playfully if possible! Each day we ask 5-10 questions that require students to use and apply their new words in fun ways.

Here are some examples organized a round a few rules we’ve come to use:

Start simple: the first few questions should be fun and easy. You build success and have fun.  It’s still useful retrieval.  Just make sure students use the word in their answer

  • If someone was adamant about helping the environment, what’s something they might do?
  • Think of something a child might be forbidden from doing alone?
  • If a classmate was described as ‘easily influenced‘ would that be a compliment? Why or why not?

Get more complex: As you go, combine words, change tenses, increase scenario difficulty, and add writing.

  • If I said my little brother had an aptitude for disobedience, what kinds of things would you expect him to do?
  • Could you fret about something and also nurture it? explain.
  • Is is possible to dread making a sacrifice? Why or why not? _____________________________________________________________________________


Apply to the book: Reinforce comprehension by asking questions related to the book

  • At the end of Chapter 3, Bud was heading into the Amos’ house to get revenge. What’s something he might do?
  • What’s something Jonas’ father has an aptitude for?


Ask again and again. Ask about words from previous lessons to aid long-term memory.  In the example below the bolded words in black are from the day’s lesson. The one in red is from a lesson the previous week.

  • Would it be reckless to betray a tyrant? Why or why not?




5 Responses to “Examples of Active Vocabulary Practice from our New Curriculum”

  1. Chuck Coan
    October 15, 2018 at 1:52 pm


  2. Amy
    October 16, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Hi Doug!
    You have a small typo. Complement should be compliment. 🙂

    • Doug Lemov
      October 24, 2018 at 2:35 pm


  3. Bethenia D Price
    October 31, 2018 at 3:33 am

    Brilliant exercise!! Since “learning is doing” your activities engage students in “active thinking,” and frame the learning in real-world scenarios, which makes the activity more effective. The activities may even be done as a small group activity. Bravo!!

    • Doug Lemov
      October 31, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      Thanks. Love the idea that these can become a group activity.

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