Strategies to improve students' vocabulary

In his latest Teacher video Greg Whitby, Executive Director of Schools in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta speaks to Jessica Azar, a teacher from St Margaret Mary's Primary in Merrylands about her approach to improving students' vocabulary.

Azar is in her second full year of teaching and is always on the lookout for new ideas to implement in her classroom.

‘There's a really, really big teacher community on social media and I try to follow all of those things and I'm always looking for new ideas, different practices that I can bring into my own classroom – whether I take them as they are or adapting them for what works for me,' she shares.

One specific example of this is the Shades of Synonyms Wall that Azar found on Pinterest and has built in her own classroom, which involves the use of paint chip cards found at a hardware store. Azar says that she's found it's a great way to improve students' vocabulary in both speaking and writing.

‘So we have an interactive display where students can come, and take the words, use them in their writing or their speaking and we build on that together as well,' she says.

When she initially implemented the Shade Wall, Azar thought it would be a great way to extend her top performing students, but it's proved to be really effective for all the students in her class.

‘Because of the way it's scaffolded, if a student sees a word down the bottom like “amazing” and they don't know what that means, they can go up and they can see the word “good” and they can find out what the word means,' she explains.

‘So it's really universal in its design. It works for all students. And I've just noticed in their writing, they're more aware of the word choices that they're using.

‘So sometimes I'll even see that they've written a word like “hungry”, they'll cross it out and they'll go get the Shade Wall word and it will say “ravenous” and they've written that in their writing. They're more aware of the word choices that they're using, trying to make their writing more interesting.'


Jessica Azar uses social media to connect with other educators and find ideas to implement in her own classroom. Consider your own use of social media. What are the main purposes you use it for

What strategies do you employ in your own classroom to improve students’ use of vocabulary? What have you found works best?