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November 1, 2013 Fun and Easy Vocabulary Activities By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Everyone loves to play games. We do some of our best learning through them. I find that when it comes to playing games in the classroom, my “grown-up” preteen sixth grade students become eager and ready to learn.

    We have a vocabulary initiative at my school where all of the students (all academic/instructional areas) are learning vocabulary words to help build their academic language skills. These words are given on a weekly basis and are compiled by a committee of teachers. The expectation is that the students will not only recognize the words in their reading, but will also use them in their writing. My students are practicing their knowledge of vocabulary through games. 


    Kid-Tested Vocabulary Games

    These games are not new. The ones I have chosen are favorites that have been adapted from television game shows. 

    Concentration — partner/small group, no more than four

    Materials: Numbered index cards (matching sets with term and definition)

    Directions: Students shuffle the index cards and place them face down on the desk. (This game can also be played on the floor). The first player turns over two cards — if they select the term and definition that matches, they continue their turn. If the cards do not match, the next player takes their turn. (Numbering the cards makes it easier for the kids to play the game and remember the placement of the cards.) The students learn two things quickly — if you are not paying attention to where the cards are, you are helping the other player and if you have not studied the terms, it will be difficult to win.

    Family Feud — small group

    (Hint — This game works if you divide the class into teams and the teams rotate. Two teams are participants and the remaining teams are the audience. As a game is completed, the teams switch. The audience becomes the “feuding families” and vice-versa.)

    Materials: survey template, instrument or buzzer for team signal (can also use raising of hand)

    Directions: Teacher calls players from each team to the front of the room to decide which team will go first. Pose a question from the survey template such as "Survey says . . . Which ______ can be used for (insert vocabulary word)?" First correct answer decides which team will play. The team continues until all blanks are completed. If a team has three incorrect responses, the opposite team has the opportunity to steal and obtain the points for that round. Repeat process. Make sure that you have plenty of prepared survey sheets so that all teams can participate. You can determine how many points a team needs to win. (Refer to the survey sheet for more info.)


    Some of my colleagues have tried this website and recommended it to me. The game board is set up for you. All that is left to do is input your information.

    Pyramid — teams of three

    Materials: game card (two sets of vocabulary terms with synonym or antonym lists), answer sheets

    Directions: Student A gives the synonyms/antonyms and Student B responds with the term. Student C serves as the scorekeeper/judge. Next round, the roles are rotated. You can determine how many rounds the students will play. The student with the most correct answers wins. Remember to switch the players so that all students have a chance to play with the words.

    Pearls of Wisdom — These games can be adapted to any curriuclum area. Experiment and have fun with them. Create a project where your students create a vocabulary game that the class can use through the year. There were too many games for me to list, so please check back for future installments of vocabulary games.


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Susan Cheyney