Learning centers are great for encouraging students’ ownership of their own language learning.
These centers, designed especially for vocabulary class, are easy to set up and will give your students an opportunity to work with their vocabulary hands on.
Try These Ideas for Vocabulary Centers
Rock and Roll Vocabulary
Are you looking for a way to review vocabulary words with your students? This learning center will do just that, and all you need are a list of your vocabulary words (write one word each on a Popsicle stick and put them in a cup at the center) and a six sided die. If you like, make copies of You’re On a Roll With Vocabulary recording sheet available free from Teachers Pay Teachers. Students should choose a word from the cup and then roll the die. They must follow the directions for the number they rolled. Students keep rolling until they have rolled every number from one to six and followed the directions for those rolls. For the roll instructions, write the following on a poster or handout and display it at your learning center.
- Write a definition of your word
- Use your word in a sentence
- Give a synonym for your word
- Give an antonym for your word
- Draw a picture of your word
- Write a word that rhymes with your word
I Spy Vocabulary
This simple set up vocabulary center will have your students learning words from A to Z. For this center, print one or more pictures from an I Spy book (like this one). Students at the center should list the letters A to Z on a piece of paper and then look carefully at the picture. They should try to find something in the picture that begins with each of the letters of the alphabet. Students will have to be creative and think of synonyms for objects in the pictures (for example, car/automobile/vehicle…). You might also want to leave a thesaurus at the center as a resource. For more advanced students, set a timer for five minutes and see how many of the 26 letters they can complete.
Word Cluster Vocabulary
Teaching vocabulary clusters, or several words with similar meanings, can be a very effective method of instruction. To review groups of synonyms with your students, try this learning center. Write each vocabulary word on a clothes pin. Then take a paper plate and divide it into sections (like the pieces of a pie). In each section, write a synonym or category for the vocabulary words. (For example, you might write “walk”, a synonym of saunter, stroll, mosey, etc. or “emotions”, a category for happy, sad, scared, etc.) Students then read each clothes pin and clip it along the edge of the paper plate in the correct section.
Compound Word Match Up
Next spring when plastic eggs fill the dollar store bins, grab a package or two for this easy vocabulary learning center. Choose several compound words that your students already know or that you will teach them. Then, separate the plastic eggs and match each top with a different colored bottom. Using a permanent marker, write one compound word on each complete egg – the first part of the word on the top half of the egg, the second part of the word on the bottom part of the egg. Separate all of the compound word eggs and put the pieces in a basket. Students who use this center should match the two halves of each compound word together. If you like, include an answer sheet at the center so students can check their matches.
Ice Cream Matchup
Give your students a chance to review synonym or antonym pairs with this fun and easy learning center. Print out several ice cream cone templates and cut them out (or have your students cut them out). For each cone, write a synonym or antonym pair – one on the cone and one on the ice cream (be sure to mix up the colors). Shuffle them together. Clean out an ice cream tub and put it at your center with the labeled cutouts. Students using the center should match each word to its synonym/antonym by matching ice cream scoops to cones. You can also vary the templates in your center according to the season – use two halves of a heart around St. Valentine’s Day, pairs of flip flops in the summer, etc.
Have a Ball with Vocabulary
If you are teaching ESL students in the U.S. or other English speaking country, your students probably encounter unfamiliar and interesting words every day. This activity from Imagination Station can turn your vocabulary learning center into a class vocabulary roundup. Position your center near a blank bulletin board or empty table. You will want to create a gumball machine on your bulletin board or have a real gumball machine on the table (check thrift stores or the classifieds). Also put a dictionary and several circles cut from different colors of construction paper. When students hear interesting or unfamiliar words, encourage them to note those words in a vocabulary notebook. During your next free learning period, they can share these interesting words with the rest of the class. Students with a word to share should look that word up in the dictionary and then write the word and a simple or paraphrased definition on a construction paper “gumball”. They can then post in on your board or put it in the gumball machine. Students who do not have a word to share but want to learn interesting new words can read the gumball words with definitions at their leisure during free learning periods.
ABC Class Book
No matter what theme you are covering in your current vocabulary unit, your students can work together to make an ABC book on that theme. This learning center is almost too easy to set up. Simply staple 27 pages together booklet style, write your unit theme on the front, and put it in the center with some art materials and a dictionary. You might also want to write the letters A to Z in the upper right hand corner of the 26 booklet pages, but you can leave that to your students, too. Students using the center will find and illustrate a word related to your theme and do so on the correct letter page of your booklet. For example, if your theme is sports, one student may write Baseball on the B page and then illustrate it. The next student may write Tennis on the T page and illustrate that. The book remains in use at the center until students have completed every page and thus every letter of the alphabet. Once the book is complete, leave it out for your students to read during their free learning periods and put anther blank book in the ABC center.
Vocabulary is key to language learning, and these centers which take very little set up will help your ESL students increase their English vocabularies and have fun at the same time. Try one for yourself and see.
Do you use learning centers in vocabulary class?
What are some of your favorite activities?