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December 5, 2014 Vocabulary Games: Easy, Quick, and Fun By Kriscia Cabral
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Use these vocabulary games to motivate students, pique their interest, and allow for vocabulary review in an exciting way.

    Vocabulary Acting Out

    One activity we do after reviewing our selected words is “Acting Out.”

    Step 1: Each student chooses one word from our vocabulary list.

    Step 2: Taking turns, they come to the front of the room and act out the word without talking. It is similar to playing the game charades.

    Step 3: After the student has acted out the word, they call on classmates who make their guess as to which vocabulary word was chosen. If the person called on picks the correct word, that person then gets to go to the front of the room and act out a word of their choice that has not been used already.

    Why the kids love it

    They are children and it is a game. Many of them like the opportunity to come in front of peers and act. Those who do not like this type of attention are offered the opportunity to choose a buddy to act out the word that they selected. 

    Why I love it

    • It is a great review of vocabulary.

    • It’s a game that does not require any supplies or prep.

    • The room is quiet as the actor performs (because they can’t speak when acting out) and filled with excitement when the guesser chooses the correct answer and everyone else shares, “That’s what I was going to say!”

    • Students get a chance to critique each other on how they acted out the word. I hear a lot of "It would've been helpful if you did ____ because the word means _____." It's neat to see the actor use their knowledge of the word to defend their artistic acting skills.

    How to challenge them

    When students get really comfortable with the words, I then ask them to act out an antonym of the word. After the actor demonstrates the antonym of the word, classmates then have to guess what vocabulary word the antonym is related to.


    The Great Race

    Another activity that I do for vocabulary review is to create sentences. This could be executed as a PowerPoint or a Word document that can be projected for students to see. I have students partner up (choosing partners can be students' choice or teacher choice — whatever you need in the moment) and stand at the back of the room against the wall. Every partnered group has a whiteboard and a marker to write their response.

    Step 1: Display the sentence with the vocabulary word blanked out. (Example: My dad brought home a ______ of strawberries. (flat)

    Step 2: Set a timer for students to read the sentence and then answer the question (I usually give one minute).

    Step 3: Allow partners to give their final answers on their whiteboards.

    Step 4: Prompt students to display answers with, “One, two, three, SHOW." Students show their answers. Every correct answer is worth three steps towards the front of the room. Incorrect answers are worth one for trying. The group that makes it to the front wall first (which is usually many groups at once) is the “winner.” I say “winner” because by the end of the game we look back at the wall and see how far we’ve come and everyone celebrates all the words they knew while making a mental note of words they need to review for next time.

    Why the kids love it

    They are playing another game and their bodies are in motion. They get to have a partner while they play and they get to race to the front of the classroom. 

    Why I love it

    • It’s another way to review vocabulary.

    • Students get to communicate and share their thinking with a partner before responding. (They have to agree to their final answer and if there is a disagreement, they have to reason with each other before responding.)

    • I also get to take a mental note of words I need to go over more in our integrated day of learning. What words did students know before the counter started? What words had the lowest number of responses? It’s a great assessment tool for me.

    This game could also be played digitally using a web tool like Socrative or Kahoot It. The kids love the visual game-like feel of these two websites as well.

    Looking for vocabulary resources? Check out these gems that Scholastic has to offer.

    Also take a look at Scholastic's vocabulary learning page with Word Girl. Here, your students can find books that boost vocabulary while reading adventure stories, playing a synonym matching game, and watching a short video clip from her show on PBS. There is also a link to a Definition Competition page for students in grades one to three. Lots of great resources and activities can be found online that are quick and easy to use.

    Helping students grow their vocabulary enhances their ability to read, write, listen, and speak. Being able to connect with academic language in a variety of ways builds student confidence and love for learning. What are some ways you engage students in vocabulary review? Please share in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!

    Thank you for reading.




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