Students can better learn academic vocabulary by showing the relationship between words and concepts, which reinforces and solidifies word understanding. When students think about word associations and the reasoning behind the association, they make deep word associations, generate examples, and make personal connections. Watch this video to see what activities you can use to help students learn through word associations.

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Also, learn more about Word Raider at

Word Associations Transcription

The next strategy we will look at to build situated word meaning is word associations.

We’re not talking about just synonyms. Rather students must show a relationship between the words or the concepts. This reinforces and solidifies understanding.

Let’s look at an example. In the first column, lists the target words. In the second column, students make an association to the word. This could be a person, a thing, an experience, anything really. As long as the student can explain the relationship which goes into the third column.

Providing a model for students to follow is very important so they can see what is expected of them. Discuss with students other associations they can make for the sample. For admire, rather than just a person, what are the qualities in someone they admire? And why?

Explaining your reasoning for the relationship or association causes students to think deeply about the meaning and they are generating examples and conditions or criteria for that word. They are making connections to known concepts to their own personal experience.

Another way to use word associations is to give students a word map with the target word in the middle. Give students one minute to brainstorm all the words that pop into their heads when they think of this word. Again, it’s not about synonyms. Then have students explain each connection, each association.

Let’s see how this, and other vocabulary strategies are used in, an academic vocabulary video game.

I’m one of the lead content developers and designers of Word Raider implements the principles of good learning games by leading expert doctor James Gee. We also integrated the research from vocabulary experts like Robert Marzano and Isabel Beck.

Players see words being used in different contexts, and must make appropriate associations based on the meaning and usage.

As you can see, the game focuses not only on word meaning, but also on grammar and the other parts of speech for that word. Here, the player is presented with a situation described in a sentence and must choose the word that fits that situation.

Then the player chooses that sentence that uses the word correctly. Here, student read a sentence and must find the definition of the word that corresponds to how the word was used in a sentence.

Well that’s it for today’s How-To Tip. Be sure to visit for more activities, downloads, and videos. There are a variety of subjects that we will cover, to help you teach English learners. You can learn more about Word Raider at, and don’t forget to share this with other teachers who might find it useful.

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