• Search
  • My Storyboards

Learning English is not an easy task. One of the problems is that English has a very rich vocabulary, meaning students have many words to learn. On top of this, there are several ways to teach vocabulary, and students may find some methods better for them than others. One thing is for sure: it's always a good idea to teach vocabulary in context. Putting the words in a phrase or sentence helps students so much more than just giving them the words and definition alone. Try to use the new words in speech as much as possible when you are teaching them, to model how to use them. Repetition is key to remembering the words over long periods of time, so it's essential that your students practice a lot.

Stand-alone words, especially in lists, are not an effective way for students to learn vocabulary. Giving the students the key words within sentences will better help them understand the new words and how they can be used. Students and teachers can use Storyboard That to quickly and easily create their own visual definitions or scenes to demonstrate the meaning of the words both individually and within a context. The advantage of having students create their own visual definitions is that they are personal to the student. Students are, therefore, more likely to remember them. After creating these visual vocabulary resources, students can easily revisit them at any point. When students have completed an activity, the storyboards are saved in the student’s own account, but also shared with the teacher.

Layouts for Vocabulary Activities

Storyboard That makes it simple for students to create their own visual vocabulary resources. Students can blend together text with visual elements, such as characters, shapes, scenes, and props to create their own illustrated definitions of the keywords. Storyboard That offers a range different layouts which are suited to different vocabulary activities. The variety of layouts also allows students to select what works best for them (unless the activity requires a certain layout).

Traditional Storyboard

The traditional storyboard layout is useful for making visual vocabulary lists. Students can write the word in the title box of the cell and in the description box, they can write their own definition of the word. This can be done in English or in the students’ own language. Students can then create a visual definition or add some examples in the cell. This format can also be easily printed and cut up into flashcards or labels.

Spider Map

Spider maps are useful for showing how words are related to a central theme. Clustering words can help students make connections between the words, increasing the likelihood they are to remember them. Spider maps are limited to only ten cells. If you have a word list longer than this and wanted to include them on one storyboard, you should use a different layout, like the traditional layout.

16x9 Storyboard

The 16 x 9 layout is great for labeling activities or any activity where you need a bit more space. You can give students images (or even upload your own) and have them label the image with textables. You can increase the size of the cell as well, to make sure that students have plenty of room to include their ideas (or use the handout and poster layouts). Additionally, the description box is larger when you use a 16x9 cell, which gives students more room to use more complicated written input. In the description box they could use the target language in a sample sentence, write a detailed definition, or include a list of synonyms.


T-Charts are great for comparing different words, especially antonyms! This layout could be used when comparing different words used by different parts of the world, like American and British English. Another way to use T-Charts is to create a list of extreme adjectives and compare them to their corresponding “normal” adjectives.

English Idioms

Idioms are described as a phrase, or expression, where the meaning can’t be worked out from the individual words. For example, time flies means time goes quickly, but this could cause confusion with some students if they try to interpret the idiom literally. There are thousands of idioms in the English language and they are used commonly in speech. Many idioms are specific to cultures, countries or even regions within a country, which makes it even more difficult for students to learn. Similarly to phrasal verbs, it is important to use them regularly in context when talking to your students in class. As with all vocabulary, repetition is key. An interesting activity to do with idioms is having your students compare literal and figurative meanings of idioms. They'll then have visual definitions that give both the meaning and ideas about when to use them.

Prepositions for ELLs

Prepositions are really well suited to visual definitions. Trying to explain what they mean with words alone can be really difficult. This activity could be used with younger students or beginners with words like in, under and between. This could also be extended to older or more advanced students by using more difficult prepositions such as among, opposite and until. Teaching prepositions can also be a place where you introduce or reinforce vocabulary, as you'll need to pick an item to move around second one!

Storyboard That's Export Options

As with all storyboards on Storyboard That, any vocabulary storyboards can be exported in a range of different formats. Any work that you or your students complete can be quickly and easily put into a presentation or other document, or even printed. Using the export tool, flashcards with the vocabulary words and the visuals can be printed with a couple of clicks and cut up. Flashcards can be used in games where students have to match the visual with the word. The best thing about games is that students learn even when they don’t know they are!

Related Activities

How to Create Visual Vocabulary Resources with Storyboard That


Select a Layout

Choose a layout from Storyboard That that suits your vocabulary activity. Consider options like the traditional storyboard, spider map, 16x9 storyboard, T-chart, English idioms, or prepositions. Select a layout that best fits the purpose and content of the vocabulary resource you want to create.


Customize the Storyboard

Use the chosen layout to create your visual vocabulary resource. Add text, characters, scenes, props, and shapes to visually represent the vocabulary words. Write definitions, example sentences, synonyms, or any other relevant information in the description boxes. Encourage students to use their own language or English, depending on their proficiency level.


Personalize the Visuals

Encourage students to create their own visual definitions by personalizing the visuals to make them meaningful to them. This personalization increases engagement and improves memory retention. Students can add their own illustrations or find suitable images from Storyboard That's library.


Save and Share the Storyboards

Once the visual vocabulary resources are complete, save them in the students' Storyboard That accounts and share them with the teacher. This allows easy access to the storyboards for revision and future reference. Students can revisit the storyboards whenever they need to review or reinforce their understanding of the vocabulary words.


Utilize Export Options

Take advantage of Storyboard That's export options to enhance vocabulary learning. Export the storyboards as flashcards that include visuals and words, which can be printed and cut up for interactive matching games. Additionally, you can export the storyboards to include them in presentations or documents for classroom use or online sharing.


Engage in Vocabulary Games

Use the flashcards created from the exported storyboards to play vocabulary games with students. Games like matching the visual with the word or creating sentences using the vocabulary words can make learning enjoyable and effective. Students will reinforce their vocabulary knowledge while having fun.

Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching Vocabulary to ENLs

What is the best way to teach vocabulary to English as a New Language (ENL) students?

The best way to teach vocabulary to ENL students is to use a variety of techniques that cater to different learning styles, such as visual aids, hands-on activities, and repetition. Additionally, it's important to make sure the vocabulary words are relevant to the student's interests and needs.

Should I focus on teaching general vocabulary or content-specific vocabulary?

It's important to teach both general vocabulary and content-specific vocabulary. General vocabulary helps students communicate effectively in everyday situations, while content-specific vocabulary is essential for understanding academic texts and participating in specific subjects, such as science or social studies.

How many new vocabulary words should I introduce to my ENL students at once?

The number of new vocabulary words to introduce at once will depend on the students' age, level of English proficiency, and learning style. Generally, it's best to introduce a manageable amount of new vocabulary words at a time and ensure the students have mastered those words before introducing new ones.

Check out our other great ENL resources!
View All Teacher Resources
*(This Will Start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)
© 2024 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
StoryboardThat is a trademark of Clever Prototypes, LLC, and Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Limited Time. New Customers Only

Back to school special!

Purchase Orders MUST be received by 9/6/24!


  • 1 School
  • 10 Teachers
  • 2 Hours of Virtual PD

30 Day Money Back Guarantee. New Customers Only. Full Price After Introductory Offer

Generating a Quote

This is usually pretty quick :)

Quote Sent!

Email Sent to