Simple Vocabulary Strategies That Work

Updated November 8, 2016
student practicing vocabulary strategies
    student practicing vocabulary strategies
    FatCamera / E+ / Getty Images

Learning new vocabulary can be both fun and simple if you employ the right vocabulary strategies. Whether you’re a language arts teacher or a reader hoping to learn new words, there are lots of engaging ways to strengthen your vocabulary. Keep reading to find the strategy that works best for you – and see if you can challenge yourself as well!

Learning Vocabulary Words

Strategies for learning vocabulary words range from rote memorization to fun and interesting games. Tailor your strategy to your learning style or play some fun games with words to memorize vocabulary words quickly and easily.

Look It Up

You are likely to remember a word if you take the time to look it up. In fact, discovering a new word in the context of a book may be one of the best ways to remember it, since you'll be able to remember it in light of the sentence in which you found it.


Frayer Squares

First created by educator Dorothy Frayer, Frayer squares are an excellent way to reinforce vocabulary knowledge. Draw a square with four quadrants and the vocabulary word in the middle. In the first quadrant, write the word’s definition. Then in the other quadrants, write its characteristics, examples of the word, and non-examples of the word. You can also include an illustration of the word rather than the characteristics if it’s easier to visualize.

A Word a Day

Learning new vocabulary words by studying a new word each day may also be a great strategy for learning new vocabulary. You can either purchase a word-a-day calendar or create your own by adding a vocabulary word to each day of a monthly calendar. Try to use the word at least three times in conversation during the day.


Word Connections

Sometimes, learning a new word requires you to make connections with other words. Choose one new word and one familiar word and put them on either side of a Venn diagram. Write the differences between the words on the left and right sides and any similarities in the middle. Finding similarities may be difficult for words that are very different – but the connections will definitely help you remember the definitions!

Memorizing New Words

When students in school learn new vocab, they often do so by writing the words in sentences and writing out the word and the definition several times. This process of memorization through writing can help you commit large lists of words to memory.

Synonyms and Antonyms

Play with the idea of learning words by writing a sentence containing a new vocab word and then another sentence containing the antonym (the opposite word). This way, you can learn two words at once and remember both because of the association between them. You can do the same with synonyms and even homonyms in case you get bored with just writing sentences.


Acrostic Poems

To write a vocabulary acrostic poem, write out the new word vertically, giving one line to each letter of the word. Then, write a word associated with the new vocabulary word on each line. You may even come up with a noteworthy poem at the end of your study session!

Parts of Speech Shuffle

Sometimes words don’t stay in one part of speech. Take the word delight, for example – it’s a noun (“joy”), a verb (“to bring joy”), and if you add a suffix, it becomes an adjective (delightful – “capable of bringing joy”). See how many parts of speech your new vocabulary word can become!


Flashcards may also be useful. Write the word on one side and the definition on the other. You can even make this into a game if you have friends or relatives who also enjoy learning vocabulary words. Set up your flashcards as a makeshift Jeopardy board and award points if the person gets the definition of the word correct.


Illustrating the Meaning

Drawing pictures to define words is a helpful strategy to master important vocabulary. Creating posters, comic strips, or collages that relate to a particular word activate both the logical and artistic sides of your brain. The double activation ensures that the word is more likely remembered later on.

Mnemonic Devices

You can also devise mnemonic devices by coming up with associations for the words. For example, if you are trying to learn the word boisterous, which means noisy, loud and rowdy, you could create a word association like, “Boy, did those boisterous people stir up trouble for us. Boy-stir-us."

Tape Recording

People can effortlessly memorize songs and television commercials by listening to them. Employ this same strategy with new vocab words. Record yourself saying the words you want to learn and listen to the tape while in the car or making dinner. You can multitask and learn by listening.


Word Board Games

There are plenty of entertaining games to help you learn new vocabulary words. Try out a group guessing game like Taboo or Pictionary with your own vocabulary list. If you’d like to play with definitions, start a game of Balderdash with your fellow wordsmiths. You’ll learn and laugh at the same time!

Varying Your Vocabulary

Learning new vocabulary words can help you communicate more clearly. Since everyone learns differently, you may want to adjust your vocabulary strategies to your own personal learning style. Check out an article on different learning styles to decide the best way for you to develop a stronger vocabulary. Or, if you’re interested in learning vocabulary for a new language, take a look at 15 benefits of learning a second language.