I don't know about you, but my students' limited vocabulary astounds me sometimes. I have to constantly remind myself that I have an above-average vocabulary as it is (not to toot my own horn; it's just something people have actually commented on to me!). I'm not expecting regular sentences with 5+ syllable words; I just want them to expand their vocabulary.
Objective: To increase students' vocabulary
Materials: A text you are currently reading
I've done this particular "vocab-grab" exercise before with 5 different classes; it's much more manageable when you're on a block schedule (3 classes instead of 5), but still do-able if you're organized & "with it" enough.
The philosophy of Vocab-Grab is simple: let the students choose the vocabulary! Tell them before you assign a passage - in class or out - that they should make a list of words they don't know as they encounter them while reading. They should also note which page number they find it on. This will come in handy later.
Once you've finished the assigned text (or if it was for homework: The next day,) ask students to share words from their lists. Compose a big list on the board - take all the words they throw out at first. You'll narrow down later. When it comes to parsing, I usually keep only 10 words for a vocabulary "set". If we have more than that, we vote on which words to keep or throw out.
After you compile the list, make note of it for yourself (especially if you have more than one class doing this). Then, hand out the dictionaries and start finding those definitions! If there is more than one definition for a word, look back at the word's context on the page (this is why you'll want them to write down the page #). Discuss which definition you think is most appropriate, and come to an agreement as a class.
They seem to retain the terms longer and really take ownership of them by choosing the words themselves. Sometimes, when we're voting on words to keep or throw out, I play my Teacher's Choice card. They often want to throw out a word that is long or seems to have a difficult spelling. If I think the word is a good one, though, I request (er...demand) that they keep it. The idea here is to learn & stretch ourselves, after all! That sometimes means keeping the hard words. ;)
Source: can't remember