Standard Lesson

Internalization of Vocabulary Through the Use of a Word Map

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
One or two 45-minute sessions
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This lesson provides students with a concrete way to learn vocabulary. The instruction is interactive, provides practice with words, and develops both definitional and contextual knowledge through two agents—purposeful sequencing of steps and collaboration with peers. This method is best used with students who require a concrete, visual approach to learning and students who habitually select the first dictionary entry or the meaning they are already familiar with. This method can also be used as one of a variety of approaches from which students can choose. Vocabulary words for the lesson can be predetermined or student-selected.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Recent research has found that knowledge of vocabulary is the single most important factor in reading comprehension. (LaFlamme, 1997, p. 372)

  • Students who use background knowledge, context clues, morphology, and dictionaries learn words more effectively.

  • Vocabulary instruction must be interactive, especially for middle school children.

  • A word map is a sequentially structured visual model that meets all necessary requirements of existing models and adds an additional component—student interaction.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Materials and Technology

  • Dictionaries (or online references, such as or Word Central)

  • Highlighter or colored pencils

  • Overhead projector, transparencies, and markers




1. This vocabulary lesson uses the short story "The Most Dangerous Game." Read the story and preselect several vocabulary words that will probably be unfamiliar to your students and can be easily modeled. A sample vocabulary list is provided, with sample vocabulary words from the story underlined and in bold.

2. You can plan to have students work with a partner, particularly if some students are weak in dictionary skills.

3. Prepare printed copies of the short story and blank word map templates.

4. Prepare overhead transparencies of the sample word map for harbor and the blank word map template.

Student Objectives

To strengthen vocabulary acquisition skills, the student will

  • Complete a word map for vocabulary, following the eight prescribed steps

  • Increase retention of selected vocabulary by making a personal connection to the word

  • Demonstrate internalization of vocabulary by writing an original sentence using the word

  • Reflect upon various vocabulary methods and the feasibility of independently using this method

Instruction and Activities

1. Activate students' prior knowledge by discussing big game hunting. Do students know anyone in their families who consider hunting a sport? Have they seen any television shows or movies where hunting is portrayed in a positive or negative way? How do they feel about hunting? Do they think of it as a sport?

2. Inform students that they will be reading a short story about hunting. While reading, they will have an opportunity to use and assess a new way of learning vocabulary—by using a vocabulary word map.

3. Have students list (on the board or overhead) familiar approaches to learning vocabulary. Approaches may include flash cards, crossword puzzles, acting out word meanings (kinesthetic approach), or writing definitions from the dictionary. Using tally marks, survey the class about their comfort level with these methods and their attitudes toward vocabulary activities.

4. To demonstrate the importance of a strong vocabulary, ask two teams of students to describe a big game animal. Team A may use only five words to describe the animal. Team B may use an unlimited number of words.

5. As teams collaborate, point out the use of various senses in approaching this task. The choice of only five words for Team A will be more challenging and require strong sensory vocabulary words.

6. Bring the whole class together, and have groups compare their experiences while working on this activity. Team collaboration will play a key role, particularly for Team A, because each student in the group will have contributed different associations and examples of descriptive words for the big game animal before reaching a consensus.

7. Review with students the possibility of categorizing vocabulary words in two ways: words that are brand new and familiar words with new meanings.

8. As an example, present the word harbor, which should be a familiar word for students. Ask students to write a brief definition of the word and use it in their own sentences.

9. Then direct students to page 9 of the printed copy of "The Most Dangerous Game." Ask students to locate the word harbor on that page. After reading the sentence and paragraph in which the word appears, ask students if their written definitions fit this context.

10. Using the overhead word map template and the think-aloud method, model the eight steps by completing a word map for harbor. [The sample word map can be used as reference.]
  • Step 1: Write the word and the page number on which it is found in the text.

  • Step 2: Copy the phrase or sentence in which the word appears, and predict its meaning. Indicate how the word is used in the sentence (i.e., part of speech).

  • Step 3: Using a dictionary (e.g., if you have access to a classroom computer and the Internet), look up the word and locate the correct definition. Employ a think-aloud to ask, "Does this make sense based on how the word is used in the text?" Record the correct definition on the word map.

  • Step 4: Use the dictionary entry to fill in a synonym for the word.

  • Step 5: Use the dictionary entry to fill in an antonym or nonexample of the word.

  • Step 6: Use the dictionary entry to find other forms of the word.

  • Step 7: Model how you can make a connection to the word. It's also important, at this point, to ask students to verbalize their own connections to the word. This is a key step toward ownership of the vocabulary! After verbalizing personal connections, ask students to sketch an example or association on the back of their word maps. Encourage quick sketches and not works of art. Have each student share his or her sketch with a partner and discuss the similarities and differences. Make a point to emphasize the variety of associations.

  • Step 8: Model how you would develop a sentence that uses the word, and ask students to create their own sentences. Have students check their sentences to see if context clues are given. Make sure that they avoid the pitfall of simply using the sentence to define the word.

While you are modeling the approach, students can copy the information onto their blank copies of the word map template to save as an example.

11. Elicit critical thinking skills by asking students why the sequence of these steps is important.

12. Determine if additional modeling of the approach is necessary.

13. When students grasp the procedure, have them create their own word map for another preselected vocabulary word (see sample vocabulary words from "The Most Dangerous Game") or a student-selected word encountered while reading the text. Be available to assist students who are struggling and provide verbal prompting if necessary.

14. Have students pair-share their completed maps and engage in a discussion particularly about step #7, their personal connections to the words. As students explain, they will be activating and verbalizing their background knowledge and reinforcing their understanding of the words.

15. For closure, ask students to generate a journal response to the following prompt:
"Describe the vocabulary word map method, and reflect on how and when you might use this method."


  • Students could work on self-selected vocabulary, using their word maps to create vocabulary booklets.

  • Particularly for those middle schools that employ the teaming approach, this method could be used and reinforced in other content areas, such as science, health, and social studies using expository text.

  • Explore online dictionaries (e.g., or Word Central) for their ease-of-use. Students who have difficulty locating entries in a traditional dictionary may be more motivated to use an online version. Students with visual perception difficulties are sometimes overwhelmed by "all the words on a page" in traditional dictionaries. Online dictionaries eliminate this factor.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Word map rubric for self-assessment, peer-assessment, and teacher-assessment

  • Students' use of vocabulary during discussions and other follow-up activities related to the short story "The Most Dangerous Game"

  • Student reflection through journaling
Ms. Taylor
K-12 Teacher
In reply to SkierTeacher's comment . . . You CAN write on the word map pdf if you use Adobe Acrobat Pro. Choose VIEW> TOOLS> CONTENT and then use the editing bar to your right to select the specific task.
K-12 Teacher
It would be nice if the students could type into the Word Map and then print it.
Ms. Taylor
K-12 Teacher
In reply to SkierTeacher's comment . . . You CAN write on the word map pdf if you use Adobe Acrobat Pro. Choose VIEW> TOOLS> CONTENT and then use the editing bar to your right to select the specific task.
K-12 Teacher
It would be nice if the students could type into the Word Map and then print it.
K-12 Teacher
It would be nice if the students could type into the Word Map and then print it.
Ms. Taylor
K-12 Teacher
In reply to SkierTeacher's comment . . . You CAN write on the word map pdf if you use Adobe Acrobat Pro. Choose VIEW> TOOLS> CONTENT and then use the editing bar to your right to select the specific task.

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