How to Teach Vocabulary: Journals

So, we have all of these great strategies swimming around in our heads, don’t we?

Let’s figure out what this actually looks like in therapy!

If we set the journals up strategically, then we can make it easier for ourselves to implement evidence-based strategies in our sessions–especially when it comes to getting multiple repetitions! They are also a nice way to organize students’ practice.

Stay tuned, because we’ll also talk about other tools/apps in the following weeks.

Journal Options

There are unlimited options here!

  1. Index cards on a binder ring – inexpensive, easy, and versatile!
  2. Portfolio folders with paper
  3. A composition book
  4. Pieces of paper stapled together
  5. Go digital! You can create a journal using iPad apps or using Google Drive.

The truth? It doesn’t really matter how you set this up!

Here’s my favorite set up:

I use file folders and attach file prongs (affiliate links). It’s also handy to have a two-hole punch on hand.

Using the Journal to Learn New Words

There are countless options here!

Students can…

  • Define the word.
  • Draw a picture.
  • Identify synonyms/antonyms.
  • Identify affixes.
  • Write sentences using the word.

You can choose which components to include depending on your students’ goals.

It’s helpful to write the word, but repeating the word and using it in context increase the number of meaningful exposures and increases learning.

Using the Journal to Practice New Words

I personally love the index cards because they’re so versatile when it comes to practice! Kids also feel like it’s a game (like collecting Pokemon cards–or whatever is cool these days!). Here’s how we can use them…

You can use them to play a modified version of Apples to Apples or Bubble Talk (affiliate links). You can use the picture cards and then students have the opportunity to pick one of their words to describe the picture. Super engaging and individualized! Alternatively, you can walk around the room/school to find examples of their target words.

Index cards can also be used as interactive pieces to create sentences. I created mega sentence strips with placeholders. Students can then add their words to the sentence strip. (This is especially helpful in mixed groups, when you are targeting a number of goals at once!)

Even better, you can also do a book walk and use the target words to create sentences about the characters or events in the story. The journal entries make it easy for students to cue themselves and be reminded of their own definitions.

* You can also have students point to a word in their journal for the last two activities. It’s a little less interactive, but it still does the trick!

Using the Journal to for Generalization

Students can use the journal to keep track of how many times they use their new word in the classroom.

Especially if you are strategically selecting your targets (e.g., instructional verbs), it makes a lot of sense to leave students’ journals in the classroom. This way, teachers can use the entries as visual supports. Students may even be able to cue themselves.

If your teachers are already encouraging students to use journals, then it makes a lot of sense to use that same journal. No need to reinvent the wheel!

That’s all for now!

Enter your name and email below to follow this series! We’ll send you a weekly email (and a bonus resource) to help you implement these vocabulary strategies with your caseload!


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *