Vocabulary Parade: The Personality of Words Brought to Life

Looking beyond the definition and putting essence into your word

Students at Littleville Elementary School in Huntington, MA, created costumes that sent hundreds of words marching through the building just before school let out this summer!  Over 250 students, teachers and staff took part in this year’s parade. –“This celebration is a great way for children to expand their vocabulary, and gives them words they can use in their Writer’s Workshop,” said Principal Megan Coburn.

Looking for ways to support children in adding new words to their vocabulary? Dress up your child’s inner dictionary – literally! Inspired by children’s author Debra Frasier’s story Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster, children everywhere have been creatively solidifying their understanding of big, new, and necessary words by dressing up as a definition and joining together for a Vocabulary Parade!

Just like in Frasier’s story, kiddos can use new words as inspiration for a creative costume. Working to determine what a word would look like if its essence could be worn challenges young readers and writers to think critically about what it is that a word truly means. Even words with definitions that seem simple to understand (or simple to dress as) can become complex, well-though-out projects costumes. Searching for meaning other than a dictionary definition can help add depth to the activity, too. Try working on a word like “dinosaur” – sure, making a T-Rex costume would certainly convey what a dinosaur might look like, but we might also say that a corded rotary phone is a dinosaur, or that a DOS computer is a dinosaur.

No matter the amount of depth with which you choose to explore definitions, the best way for children to show off their hard work is by parading around in their vocabulary-inspired duds. Schools and libraries are both great platforms to use for creating a word parade event. Debra Frasier herself offers a vocabulary parade guide designed to support classroom teachers in conducting such events with their own students, and the activities in the guide can be easily adapted for use in more informal settings. Libraries, for whom summer readings programs are just beginning, could integrate a word parade into their summer-long celebrations surrounding science-themed reading materials. A word parade inspired by new science vocabulary could include quite the array of costumes! Similarly, a library, school, or other community group could pair a word parade with a story walk, an event that turns children’s picture books into multi-sensory, outdoor reading adventures. Culminating a community story walk with a word parade could give children an opportunity to share their story walk-inspired learning with others – illustrating the usefulness of such events, and reminding children of the importance of their work!

Additionally, families can utilize pre-existing community celebrations as opportunities for showing off their vocabulary-inspired get-ups. In Chesterfield, for example, community members are encouraged to march in the town’s annual 4th of July parade. This year’s theme is healthy living, a topic that could lead to the creation of a variety of vocabulary costumes covering everything from home-grown food to hiking. Think ahead too to the many rag shag parades that take place on Halloween.  A youth group or group of friends could organize now and start working on their costume over summer vacation, a fun way to integrate literacy into summer fun while looking ahead and planning for the fall.

For further vocabulary-driven learning, check out the literature guide for the book Max’s Words. Written by Kate Banks, the story is about a young boy named Max who creates his very own word collection in order to become as fantastic at collection-making as his older brothers. The story can inspire young readers to create word collections of their own, a habit that makes for a vocabulary filled with nouns, verbs, and adjectives of all kinds.

Looking for costume ideas? Check out these Pinterest Vocabulary Parade Boards:


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