Direct vocabulary instruction helps students improve their reading skills, and there are a number of effective ways to teach vocab. But how do you ensure your students remember these words long-term? Here are a few ideas.

1. Teach more than just meaning

In order for students to commit words to long-term memory, they need to know more than just the words' meanings. They also need to know things like words’ part(s) of speech, pronunciation, spelling, and register (formal vs. informal). It's also a good idea to let them know about irregular or uncommon uses of the word.

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2. Present the words in multiple contexts

Seeing words in multiple contexts helps students draw associations between those words and those contexts. Present the words with images depicting the words. Write the words in different colors. Play recordings of the words to your students. Ask them to write stories using the words. All of these things can help students commit their vocabulary words to long-term memory.

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3. Use the words in class as often as possible

While giving direct instruction, participating in class discussions, giving feedback, etc., do your best to incorporate the vocabulary words your students are learning. If students encounter their vocab words more often, they'll be more likely to learn them long-term and start to use the words themselves.

Encourage your students to use the words in class as well. Whether they use the words in class discussions or in written assignments, more practice will lead to better understanding. If you want to reward your students for using their vocabulary words in class, keep track of word usage in a notebook or on your computer or tablet. Repetition is important when learning vocabulary words, so any motivation you give your students is good motivation.

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4. Use flashcards

Students have been using flashcards as study tools for decades. The advent of the internet and sites like Quizlet has made digital flashcards easy to create—and students can use an app instead of creating a bunch of cards that they'll eventually just throw away.

Quizlet makes it easy to create a set of flashcards and distribute it to your students; all they have to do is access your set via or the Quizlet app. Plus, Quizlet has multiple ways for students to test their knowledge, including games and randomly generated tests.

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5. Use mnemonics

This suggestion is probably the most controversial one on the list—some say mnemonics don't work all that well, while others say mnemonics are awesome.

If you choose to use mnemonics, use them sparingly—they should be used only for challenging words, words that aren't easily related to other words students already know, and so on.

And mnemonics shouldn't take long to make. If you find yourself spending too much time developing a mnemonic for a word, that might be a sign that other learning methods are better for that word. This post on Medium has more, including a list of mnemonics for some tough words.

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What teaching methods do you use to help your students remember new vocabulary words?