Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Vocabulary Notebooks Simplified

A few years ago, I discovered a simple way to do vocabulary notebooks that I thought was worth sharing.  They are cheap and easy to make, and they've become a regular part of our daily Language Arts routine.  My students love adding new words to their notebooks each day, and at the end of the unit, we take time to go back and review and even play some fun bingo games with our words!  I love not having tons of papers to shuffle around and make copies for! 

Here's how I make them:
  • You will need to purchase a class set of 20 page composition books online (they are pretty cheap from Office Depot).  Anything over 20 pages will be very hard to cut.  Trust me on this one. 
    This is what I usually use, but any brand will do.
  • Cut them in half with a HEAVY DUTY paper cutter.
  • I like to print labels for mine so they look like this:
  • You can save half for more vocabulary notebooks later, or use the other half for a math notebook (future blog post!)
For daily vocabulary lessons, this is our daily routine:
    1. The students turn their notebooks to the first blank page and fold the paper in half (this makes a line so they can see the middle of the page better).
    2. I have my students use a ruler to make a line down the middle (over the fold they just made), and then another line across to make a 4-square.  We like to keep our vocabulary notebooks nice and neat. 
    3. In the top left box, we write the vocabulary word, count and write the number of syllables, and then divide the word into syllables.  
    4. If possible, we will also make an illustration in this box to help us remember the word.  In some cases, we can write the word the way the vocabulary word describes.  For example, one of our words was "thorny", so we wrote the word "thorny" with thorns all over it!  Ha!  Get it?  
    5. In the second box, we write the definition of the word.  We like to use a student-generated definition.  It's much easier for them to remember.
    6. In the third box, we write a list of synonyms and then one or two antonyms (if there is one.)
    7. In the last box, we use the vocabulary word in a sentence.  I usually have the students do a "think, pair, share" with their neighbors to brainstorm ideas for a sentence, and then we do a "whip around" the room to share out sentence ideas.  Then, they write it down in their notebook, making sure to underline the vocabulary word they used.  
    8. Voil√†  The finished product: (A few examples for ya!)

    I absolutely love doing these with my students.  They are always engaged in the vocabulary lesson and I love that they will also have a great resource to take home with them when we're done.  I'd say that's a win!  


    1. Thank you SO much for sharing this great idea! I can totally use this for my fourth graders. Great picts too!!! Glad to connect on here. :) The Learning Lab

    2. Thanks so much, Stacey! I've used this idea for fifth grade as well! So glad you can use it in your classroom. :)

    3. Hi! I found your blog on the TpT forum and I am your newest follower. I would love for you to check out my blog when you get a chance. I am currently teaching Kindergarten, but I taught 2nd for 11 years! :)

      Love the this Vocabulary Notebook! Awesome idea!! Can't wait to read more!

      Beth :)

      A Kindergarten Life For Me

    4. I like your academic vocabulary journals. I've always read about cutting these notebooks in half but never visualized until seeing your pics. We are also doing academic vocabulary work in my school and if you want to check out the way we created our vocab word wall hop on over to our blog...there's also a freebie. I love your stuff and will be your next follower.

      Becky from First Grade Friendzee

      1. Thanks so much! I will definitely check out your vocabulary word wall. That's one thing I have not yet been able to put up in my classroom, but have always wanted to do!

        I'm a new follower of your blog, too!

        :) Samantha
        Making Lemonade in Second Grade

    5. Such a cute idea! I love that this can be used for different grades. I have heard of people getting composition books cut, but it is even better if you can do it yourself. Worth using a smaller book.

    6. What an adorable way to keep track of vocabulary words!! I've used those half-composition books for Science but I never thought of using them for vocab! Great idea! I'm so glad you shared this. :) Thanks for visiting my blog!!

      Second Grade Sparkle

    7. Thanks so much, Kate! I also use them for math. We also make four squares, but we use each square as a step to figure out word problems. I'll be posting about them soon! Thanks for stopping by!

      Making Lemonade in Second Grade

    8. Thanks so much for stopping by, Chris!

    9. I like the way you're using your journals for math as well as vocab. Will have to add this to my 2nd graders' to-do list.


    10. I love this idea. I like the picture of "thorny!" This is a great way for students to get a full understanding of the words they are learning. Thank you so much for sharing!

      BTW: I LOVE your blog header! Too cute! I am your newest follower! I found you through the TPT forum.

      Hanging Out in First!

    11. Wow. Great idea. I will definitely have to use this next year. I am your newest follower.
      Diving Into 2nd Grade