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How to Improve Vocabulary with the List-Group-Label Strategy

How to Improve Vocabulary with the List-Group-Label Strategy


With the List-Group-Label strategy, students are actively engaged as they collaborate to list, group, and label words from any list.

Many aspects of learning vocabulary can feel overwhelming to students: multiple-meaning words; understanding prefixes, suffixes, and roots; using context clues, and more. 

With everything we need to teach, it can feel overwhelming for teachers, too. Knowing when and where to incorporate vocabulary instruction into our daily curriculum can be challenging.

In addition, vocabulary instruction can become repetitive if we don’t spice it up. So how do we incorporate it without completely boring our learners? And, more importantly… how do we help them truly understand words on a deeper level?  

My go-to method for vocabulary practice is the List-Group-Label strategy. I’ve used it for years, so I know firsthand that it helps improve students’ word knowledge.

What is the List-Group-Label strategy?

List-Group-Label is an effective and engaging strategy for vocabulary development. Learners hone their critical conceptual and processing skills by listing, grouping, and labeling words. This strategy requires our brains to categorize, which is how we integrate, store, and recall information.

In addition, it helps to activate and deepen students’ prior knowledge of a topic. It can also help them better understand the parts of speech and how language works in general. Therefore, it helps students improve their independent reading and independent writing.

So how does this strategy work?

List-Group-Label Strategy in Action

The strategy is easy to implement with very little prep work. Here are the steps:

  1. Teachers or students compile a list of vocabulary terms. 
  2. Using graphic organizers, students group the words into categories based on word parts, use or purpose, the number of syllables, or similar meanings.
  3. Students create labels for their categories based on the characteristics of the words in each group. 

After completing the activity with partners, in small groups, or individually, you can bring the class together to discuss how they grouped and labeled their words. Alternatively, you can stop by each group or individual and have them explain their process to you.

List Group Label Strategy for Vocabulary Digital and Print
List Group Label Vocabulary Strategy on Google Slides and Print (grades 4-7)

Why should I use the List-Group-Label strategy?

It’s versatile.

This method is ideal for use in any subject area and with any terms. They may come from a textbook, novel, spelling list, word wall, or root word program. Hence, differentiation is easy to achieve as the word lists can be modified for students as needed.

It encourages students to use communication skills.

Learners develop communication skills as they work together to complete each step of the process. They learn to speak and listen effectively and work together to reach a consensus.

It provides an open-ended way to explore words. 

This strategy allows students to develop their own criteria for the categories. By giving students the freedom to group and label words in their own way, they can better understand the relationships between words.

It’s ideal for partners, small groups, or independent work. 

While discussion with partners and small groups is a wonderful way to deepen understanding, some students like to work more independently. If you find that students need more support, you can complete the activity with the whole class and utilize gradual release (I do, we do, you do).

List Group Label Strategy for Vocabulary Printable
List Group Label Vocabulary Strategy Print Only (grades 4-7)

Digital and Printable Resources for List-Group-Label

If you’re wondering how to get this going in your classroom, wonder no more! I have two ready-to-go resources to help you implement the List-Group-Label strategy. Both are ideal for grades 4-7.

The List Group Label Vocabulary Strategy GOOGLE SLIDES AND PRINT version can be accessed directly from your Google Drive.

The List Group Label Vocabulary Strategy PRINT ONLY version is ideal if you prefer paper.

Both versions include instructions for teachers and students, a variety of graphic organizers for grouping the words, an example, and more.

Word study can become tedious when we assign the same repetitive practice activities over and over. So I encourage you to spice it up with the List-Group-Label strategy! Not only will your students learn more deeply when actively engaged, but they’ll also have some fun as they build their vocabularies!

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Jan's File Cabinet Intermediate and Middle School Language Arts

Hello there!

I’m Jan. I’m a pet mom, an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and a MASSIVE book hoarder. My philosophy of teaching is simple… start where students are and build them up with the right interventions at the right time. I enjoy making digital and printable resources for upper intermediate and middle school language arts.

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