Faculty Development & Learning Assessment

“Vocabulary Across the Curriculum”: Word of the Day


Wishing your students had more powerful vocabularies? Want to get the students engaged in the subject matter in the first few minutes of class?

Pick any word that you feel a college graduate should be familiar with or should know for your class. Write the word on the board as soon as you enter class.

Ask students to turn to their neighbor and see if each can explain the meaning to the other. Then poll the class for a meaning. Supply the meaning yourself if answers aren’t forthcoming. The entire exercise should take less than 90 seconds. One can use variations of this to introduce discipline-specific content. For instance “Geography Across the Curriculum” (place of the day) or “History Across the Curriculum” (historical character of the day) are fun themes that can broaden students’ general education.

In addition to teaching vocabulary, this exercise gets students’ minds actively involved and provides a kind of jump-start to the class. If the word is carefully chosen, it can be the start of an entire discussion about the concept or topic that you intend to teach that day. The accumulated knowledge that results from a tiny investment of time at the start of each class can be impressive over a semester.

Adapted from: University of Colorado, Denver. (1993). Teaching tips in a nutshell: Newsletter for Teaching Excellence, 2(12). Denver, CO.