Five Minute Fillers: Visual Mnemonics Vocabulary Review

Unless you can plan out and execute your lesson plans perfectly every single day, there will be times that you finish your plans before class is scheduled to end. It is important to have something engaging for students to do with those extra few minutes. Usually, I like to use this time to review content.One of my favorite five minute filler activities is the Visual Mnemonics Vocabulary Review. It is easy to put together on the spot and requires students to make and explain associations between key content vocabulary words.

Here are photos of a couple of completed Visual Mnemonic Vocabulary Review slides from a recent lesson on the Age of Exploration.

As you can see, you start out with a base term. This term can be a person, place, or thing from your current unit of study. The base terms are typed in black. Each word that is added must connect to and be associated with a term already listed on the board.

How does the activity work?

When I think ahead, I usually include some slides with terms already typed up at the end of my presentation on a topic. This makes them easily accessible. (If I don’t have any prepared, I just pick random vocabulary words from our current unit and write them on the board as the base words as we go.) At the end of class, I will have students pack up everything except a piece of paper and a pen/pencil. Then, I will display the first word. I give students 1-2 minutes (depending on how much time we have) to complete their own visual mnemonic. Having students write down their own visual mnemonic keeps everyone accountable. Students turn their paper in before they leave class.I flip through these pages to check for understanding, or misunderstandings, and then file them in my student work portfolios. You can find out more about my student work portfolios here.

After 1-2 minutes, I will either call on students to verbally share their associations while I write them on the board or I will allow students to write their associations on the board themselves. (This largely depends on the amount of time we have left as well as the climate of the classroom. Some classes get very distracted and off task in the few seconds it takes for a student to walk up to the board and write their term.)

The key to making this activity a valuable review is having students explain their associations. They must explain both why and how the term they are adding is related to the base term. If we want to get fancy at the very end I have students explain why and how a term is related to every other term already included in our visual mnemonic.

My students and I all enjoy this activity very much. I hope you will too!


Happy Teaching!



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