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Review Vocab with Images

In an earlier post (Teach Academic Words as a Team) I mentioned that it may take 15-30 encounters with a new word before any of us really internalizes it. Here’s a strategy to review multiple words at a time that anyone on the team can use. You need chart paper and markers.  Or your students can use a draw program on their computers or mobile devices like I did for the example below.


  • Decide on 4 to 6 words you want to review and list them on the board.
  • Break the class up into groups of 2 or 3.  More than that and it’s too easy for an individual to remain hidden in the group.
  • Give each group a piece of chart paper and markers.
  • Have them fold the paper in fourths or sixths, depending on the number of words you are reviewing.
  • Have one student in each group record a different word in each of the blocks.  Be sure to specify that it shouldn’t take up more than small part of the block.
  • Then ask each group to work together to create images in the block that explain the terms.  Give them a time limit.
  • Share the work at the end of the time.


  • Because the point of this exercise is to help students internalize these words, encourage them to share information.  In fact you might say, “You have two minutes to talk to anyone in the room about these words before your start to draw!” or “You have 2 minutes to check any resource in the room to help you design a really accurate depiction of what this word means!”
  • Give different words to each group. Put your highest performing students together and make sure at least 1 or 2 of their words are new or the most difficult to grasp.  I wouldn’t put the lowest performing students together–they need to hear more articulate students discussing the words.
  • Have students pick their own words and create the images.  If they don’t include the words in the boxes, others can circulate and use sticky notes to indicate what the images are depicting.

Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock in their book Classroom Instruction That Works list non-linguistic representation as one of the nine strategies that has a high probability of increasing achievement. This activity is a simple approach to non-linguistic representation that is easy to implement. It ensures that

  • the students hear words discussed several times
  • the students see multiple visual representations of the words
  • the teacher has an opportunity to coach students in a non-threatening situation (no grades)
  • the teacher can observe who is understanding the new concepts and who isn’t and make suitable adjustment to upcoming instruction.

Imagine if the math teacher taught the students this activity and used it a couple of times so the students knew the process cold.   Her teammates could then use the same strategy in their classes, only they would not have to reteach the process! Time would be saved and learning would proceed.

I don’t have a name for this activity.  Make one up for your team that is catchy and the kids will remember–the Kennebec House 4 Square or the Red Team’s Vocab Pictographs.  A broad vocabulary knowledge is a gift a team can give to their students that will last a lifetime!


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