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Vocabulary Lesson Ideas

Compiled By: Mrs. G

Are you looking for ways to liven up your vocabulary lessons? Try out some of these fun and engaging ways to introduce new vocabulary words.

Vocab Games
Posted by: TeachAbroad

I love vocab games. Here are some things I do in class:

1. Vocabulary Bingo -- Students can write their vocabulary words in a bingo sheet and you call out the words.

2. Last week, I had two students sit in front of the class. Their chairs faced the rest of the classroom. On the board behind them (so they couldn't see) I wrote down one of our vocab words. The class was divided into 2 teams. Each time had 5 chances to give clues so the student could guess the word. For example, if the word is frantic--they would say wild, emotional, etc. I only allowed them to give one word clues, which essentially are synonyms. Somtimes I allowed a 3 word clue! But, they loved it.

3. Vocab detective--this takes preparation, but I have parents help out.Write the vocab word on an index card. Place yarn in the card so that the students can wear it around their neck. Each student gets one card which should be placed on their back (so they can't see it). The students walk around giving clues to the person so that they have to guess the word that's on their back.

4. Battleship--This is a spelling game. The students place one spelling word in one box. They play the regular battleship game, but in order to sink the ship,they have to spell the word.

5. Definition search-- I place the definition on numbered cards. I tape the cards around the classroom. The students are to number their papers and walk around to find all of the definitions that I hung up. They are to write the word that matches the definition. So, if they go to card number 6, and the definition says huge, they have to write the word immense on their paper at number 6.

I hope these help. I get a lot of ideas from this website as well as doing searches online. There's a lot of info out there.

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Vocabulary game
Posted by: Mrs.Znak

Hello...I play the vocabulary pyramid (like the ten thousand dollar pyramid). I put however many vocab words they have that week in a pyramid and number the pyramid blocks. My students are set up in pods so they come up four at a time (two guess, while the other 2 describe). They start with block one and begin making attempts to get their teammates to say the correct word by giving them clues (definitions or words related to). Once they get a block correct they move to the next block. They get 1 minute and 30 seconds to get as many as possible (that's with an 8 word vocab list). They are permitted to pass a word if they get stuck and they can come back to it. They really enjoy it.

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Posted by: bonnybelle

The students can practice their recall of terms and definitions in a fun way.

1. Teacher can write the terms on the white board.

2. Two students can come up to the white board and face the class.
Students can take turns giving the two students clues in the form of the definition. Then, the students can turn to reach for the term on the white board. The one who touches the term first remains in the game and the other students sits down.

3. A new challenger comes up to repeat the game process.

Just until students get the hang of it the teacher can play the role of the moderator. After, a few rounds you can turn it over to the students to run the game. I've used this format in First through Fifth grade. It's fairly engaging for the whole class.

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Crazy and calm
Posted by: toniateach

Okay....the first is wild...and is really only good once in a while. Assign partners one word. On one piece of paper they write the vocab. word and on the other they write the definition. Then they crumple the papers up into a ball. When everyone is done and you've been very specific about have a snowball fight with the papers. They don't hurt or break anything. After a minute or so, everyone gets one "snowball" and they have to find their partner.

The second is not a game but is a consistent activity in my room. We call it a four square. Divide a piece of paper into 4ths (sideways/hamburger)Put a circle in the middle and write the vocab word. In the first box they write the definition, the second- use it in a sentence, 3- opposite or synonyms whatever you're focusing on, and 4th a picture. IF they can do all of these things, they really know the word.

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Posted by: nuhusker98

On the first day of a new story, I use a four-block strategy called RIVET. It is supposet to "rivet" the kids attention to the selection. To do this activity, you first need to identify the vocabulary you want to teach, along with several key words in the story. Then you make a transparency with blank lines for every letter in every word you want to do. For example if your words were lair, gorged, and forlorn, your transparency would look like:
___ ___ ___ ___
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
You give clues to each word, maybe the definition, maybe an example or a synonym, and reveal letters as the students make attempts at the word. As they get each word, write maybe a one or two word clue alongside the word so they can remember what it means. After you introduce all of the key vocabulary and important words in the story, you have the students work in pairs to write two to three sentences that predict what the story might be about. After they have their predictions, they can open their books, and preview the story to see if they may be on the right track. Usually after we do this activity, I let the students listen to the audiotape version of the story or read it with a partner. My kids love this! I hope I explained it well enough!

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vocab game
Posted by: cris

here's a simple and easy game that needs practically no set up. when you introduce new words, write them on 4 x 6 or 5 x 8 index cards with the definitions on the back. make enough so that everyone has a vocab card. you may have to repeat some so repeat the ones that are harder to remember. to begin playing, give everyone a vocabulary card and have them hold it so that the word faces outward and the definition is facing them. at the go signal, they partner up with someone and give the definition for their partner's word. after that, they exchange cards with their partner and go in search of a new partner. play for only 3 minutes or so and encourage kids to seek out as many partners as possible. this works great for a quick review. and if you get in the habit of writing the words on index cards as soon as they're introduced, you'll always have this game ready to go. you can take the cards with you on a bathroom break or on the way to lunch and play whenever you have a few minutes to kill. with a little tweaking, you can modify this game for all kinds of subjects (math formulas, social studies or science facts, for example).

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fun game
Posted by: fun_friend

I like so many of the ideas I've read here! Teaching vocabulary is one of my primary passions. I really believe a large vocabulary is the mark of intelligence or at least education.

I take 10-20 words and type them in a column on Excel. I skip a column and then type a corresponding definition. I format the typing to a large font but make sure it fits on one or two pages of cardstock. I print a few copies and cut the definitions and terms apart and put each collection in a small zip lock bag. I have kids work in pairs or trios to match up the terms to definitions as a study technique. I have them practice a few times if a vocabulary test is emminent. This is an easy way to review and also to allow the kids to talk about the vocabulary. I have several sets I've made this year on just general language arts terminology: narrative, noun, semicolon, indent, vivid, modify, possessive noun, etc. When I've taught a novel or read-aloud, I generate sets for sections of the novel for the kids to practice before taking a quiz.

I bought the puzzlemaker software from, but you can access the programs for free on the web (the CD is enhanced and IMHO worth the $$). Kids enjoy crosswords or other puzzlers I generate to help them learn the vocabulary.

Pairs of kids can take an individual word and made a Power Point presentation to teach the word to the rest of the class. This was a pretty fun activity when I did it last year! They say teaching is the best way to learn something. I gave them guidelines and a rubric.

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Flashlight Vocab
Posted by: Jim

I love teaching vocabulary-it can be so fun and innovative. My favorite is the flashlight game. On a 8.5 x 11 paper write all the vocabulary words, and place them around the room. Review definitions or have students find the definitions. Then divide into groups of 3 or 4. Call out the definition. ON 1 students aim their flashlight on the word. Say 2 they shine their lights on the right word (I do this so they don't follow any group--this way they can't copy and think for themselves. If they get it right 1 point. Prize for winning team.
Jim Scott

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QUick Game
Posted by: danie

I play I have Who Has Vocab game after introducing the vocab. I just write "I have __________" on one side of an index card, on the other side it says "Who has a word that means___________?" You set it up so that each word goes to the next card inline, the kids have to work together and pay attention to answer...I give out the cards by group and time each group, the group that goes the quickest wins....Another idea is I assign each group a word and they need to find a definition, antonym, synonym, symbol/ picture for their word, than we fill in a vocab chart for each vocab word...I leave the context clue passage on the overhead for them to use and they can use the computer, thesaurus, etc...this is quick and takes like 20 minutes to complete.

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Posted by: ConnieWI

Matching #1:
--Draw a picture or write words on a 12" x 12" piece of construction paper (clown face, alphabet letter, "You are Special!"). (You could also use a calendar picture or some other picture and just mount it on a piece of construction paper. It needs to be glued a lot so when it is cut apart, the edges stay together. That makes this step so much easier!)
--Now turn the paper over and draw 2" x 2" or 3" x 3" squares. In each square, write an antonym. Laminate and cut apart.
--On a second piece of 12" x 12" piece of construction paper, draw another set of squares. Write the correct answer in the squares. Laminate, but do not cut apart.
--Students place the smaller squares on the larger square. They can then check their answers by turning over the smaller squares to form the picture.
--This gets tricky to make, so be careful. It is easy to get confused. The cards may be in the correct place, but the picture does not work. The kids love this game!!

Matching #2:
You could also make a rectangle, divide it in half, and write an antonym on each half. Then cut the rectangle through the middle...not straight, but jagged, like a puzzle piece. Students match the halves and write the antonyms.

Card Game:
--Get some cool paper...the kind used for scrapbooking. With pencil, draw lines. The boxes should be the size of playing cards. Write antonyms on the cards (no-yes, up-down) word per card.
--Laminate and cut apart. Store in a soap box.
--Students put cards between them with word-side down. Each partner alternately draws four cards. If there are any matches, they are placed in front of the partner so the other partner can check them.
--Partner #1 picks up a card. If he/she has a pair, they are laid down. If not, one card is discarded, word side up.
--Partner #2 can now choose from the word side down pile or the discard pile. If he/she chooses from the discard pile, he/she must lay down a pair.
--Play continues until all cards are matched. The winner is the partner with the most matches.

Crossword puzzles and word searches would also be good activities for this center. is a website that was suggested to me by another poster at proteacher. Find what you need on the left-hand side of the website. Then choose the type of puzzle you want to make from the drop-down box.

You could make bingo boards to introduce antonyms, synonyms, etc. This would be a whole group activity, but a fun way to learn a new skill.

Commercially Made Games:
There are also commercially made games for the topics you mentioned. I bet you could find them at a teacher store. I looked in the catalogs I have on my desk, but had no luck!

You might even find commercially made bingo games. This would sure save a lot of time. Bingo boards are time consuming to make!

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Vocab reviews
Posted by: Dhallivi

I do a few thing for vocab.

1) Flash cards: These can be used as a "memory" game. Students draw a simple picture or symbol for the word that defines it. Then, they match them up with a partner in a game like Memory.
2) Act them out. "Who can show me 'rambunctious?'" "Can you do it differently?" "Who can show me the opposite (or antonym)?"

3) A chart with the following columns: Word, Dictionary, Mine, Sentence, picture, Synonym, Antonym. You can pick and choose which ones you want, but turn the paper landscape and make boxes about 1" so they have room to work. I can post it I think... just let me know if you want to see it.

4) I make a note in my plans reminding me to use the word during the next few lessons. "So, that cat was kinda crazy, wasn't it? I'd say it was a bit ... RAMBUNCTIOUS, wouldn't you?"

5) When we reread, I have them put a finger on their nose or do deaf applause when they hear one of our vocab words in the text. Sometimes I forget and have to think about why they are doing deaf applause....
Let me know if this is helpful or if you have any further questions.

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Posted by: SusanTeach

One of my centers occasionally is where they make a small booklet and illustrate the vocabulary. Then they write a sentence to go along with the picture. They love it because they're always looking for an excuse to draw, and it really helps them remember what it means (for my visual learners) and be able to use it in a sentence. They're allowed to draw stick people, of course (for those of us who aren't artists!).

For a whole class activity, we play "swat" (an idea I got here on PT!). If you need the directions, let me know - but it would be hard to do in cooperative groups quietly.

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Posted by: SusanTeach

So easy.....and fun! You put the vocabulary words on the board - randomly written around (not necessarily in rows). 2 students (we like boys vs. girls) each have a fly swatter. I read a definition and the first student to "swat" the word gets a point for their team. We play until all the words are done (and I do some words more than once to make sure they're paying attention). You can also put some words from past vocabulary in there - as a refresher.

I think other people wrote the words on a transparency, so the swatting wouldn't erase them from the board - so that's another option. :s)

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vocab game
Posted by: sue cat

I write the vocab on an index card and tape it a a kids back. The kid picks 3 kids to help them figure it out by giving clues. They can not say the word (obviously) or use a form of the word. If the kid can use those 3 clues to figureout whatis taped to their back, they win the card. Its called Vobackulary.

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Vocabulary activities
Posted by: 3rdgradeteach

My students for the last couple of years have had very little exposure and understanding of antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, rhyming words, compound words, etc when they come to me. Majority are second language learners which adds another difficulty.I am trying to think of a center that will make up for this lack and at the same time diversify for the different levels and learning type that will be coming in.
I was thinking of doing things like giving them a choice of activity that has to do with the same skill.
1. Play concentration and then write a list of the antonyms found.
2. Choose a certain number of antonym pairs and write a sentence using both words: My mother likes to take a hot shower but my brother likes to take a cold one.
3. Choose a certain number of antonym pairs and draw a picture illustrating the differences.
4. Read 2 sentences and identify the antonyms from the sentences.
5. Write a song, poem, or paragraph(story) using antonyms.

I am trying to think of some other types of activities that would give the students extra practice and help build their English vocabulary. I can use the above activities for the other types of word skills but am hoping that some of you wonderful teachers can help me brainstorm some other varied activities. I would like to be able to offer the students 6-10 to choose from making sure that I reach as many students as possible.

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No title
Posted by: Jaime

I introduce the vocab. for our reading stories by playing "hang man". After the word is revealed, we discuss the meaning of the word. Actually, it's hang man, but I adapt it by drawing a monkey hanging in a tree. I draw the tree then each time they miss a letter, I draw the parts of a monkey (tail, body, head, arms, legs, and sometimes I'll draw the ears separate. I chose to do it this way because last year I had a student that had a brother commit suicide. I wasn't sure how it happened, so instead of calling it "Hang man", I called it "swinging monkey". My fourth graders love this activity.

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vocabulary activites
Posted by: joybells

My children love to write their vocabulary words on their white boards. I went to Lowes and bought a sheet of white paneling that is often used in bathrooms. I had them cut it in half so I could get it home and then my husband cut them up in 9 X 12 boards. I gave them each a board, a piece of wash cloth and a dry erase marker. Most of the vocabulary words can be written phonetically so I usually say the word, we talk about how many sounds it has, then I show them with my fingers how many letters it has. For example cow would have two sounds but I would put up three fingers with the fingers representing the ow sound together. Then we would talk about what makes the "ow" sound. Then they would write it. After we write it once I have them erase it and then tell them to write it again. I have one or two use it in a sentence. Later, I use the words in sentences on either sentence strips or chart paper, covering up the vocabulary words. We read the story or sentences and try to figure out what word is behind the card. One of my centers is to use the words in sentences.
Another teacher just showed me "Sorry" She wrote the words on popsicle sticks and put them in a container along with one stick which has the word sorry on it. The first player takes a stick out of the container, says the word, spells it and then hands the stick to the next player. The next player holds the stick while the first child spells the word on a white board. If the first child spells it correctly he/she keeps the stick. The play continues until one child pulls the sorry stick. When the sorry stick is pulled, the child that pulls it must put all their sticks back in the container. Play continues until time is called.

They also love to play memory with them. We have little booklets that go with our reading series. I distribute them along with a highlighter for the children to find the vocabulary words.

I have also taped word cards to the table and put a clear plastic over the top. I use a die and markers. The children chose their color marker. The first player rolls the die and move their marker that number of spaces. If they can say the word and use it in a sentence they may stay there, if not they have to go back.

Hope this helps. I will be interested to see other ideas.

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Vocabulary Activities
Posted by: Angie

I am a firm believer that kids will learn vocab if they see/hear it everyday, so we do vocab activities everyday for that story's words. Here are a few activities that have worked great for me.

Around the Room--I hang up the definitions on cards on different objects in the room and the studnets make a list of the vocab words. They silently walk around the room and write down WHERE the definition is for the word. I tell them that they shouldn't stop and write it down because everyone will come running--they love this one!

Pass the Ladybug (or whatever you have)-I start a stuffed ladybug with a student and they say a word and pass the bug to someone else who says the definition--then they pass to a new person for a word and so on--good for active learners.

Build Your Vocabulary--I have traced patterns for a variety of tools (hammer, screwdriver, saw, pliars, wrench--all smaller then real-life) and the student writes the word and definition on the tool and we make a bulletin board or hall display out of it. This is great for reviewing a unit of vocabulary.

Vocabulary Quilt--I have a pattern that is a large square with 2 smaller squares evenly spaced inside it. The student writes the vocab word in the center and then the definition in the 2nd square and uses it in a sentence in the outer square. They then color the squares and I mount them onto construction paper and tie together to create the quilt. I have also had them to put an illustration on there as well.

Win, Lose , or Draw-- a version of this game show where vocabulary words are put into sentences or used alone and the students must draw pictures and get their team to guess what the word or sentence is. Good for reviewing lots of words!

I hope I helped!

Make learning vocabulary a game
Posted by: Anne M.

Try making practicing vocabulary words a game. Here are a few things that have worked for me. (I've used these with my sp ed classes, while teaching computer lab and during 5th grade reading) 1. Make a cube from two milk carton bottoms and cover with contact paper. Each week, write the vocabulary words on masking tape and stick one to each side of the cube. Have the kids toss the cube around the room (set some ground rules first)and read/define the word that comes up on top when they catch it. They could also use it in a sentence etc. My kids enjoy this one because they get to throw something.
2. Play mystery word. Write the words on cards. Split the class into teams. Show one team a word. Don't let the other team see it. Members of the first team must give clues, definitions, example sentences with the word left out, act out the word, draw a picture- anything to get the other team to guess the word. I usually run this like a game of charades or pictionary. Give small prizes, points or whatever system works for you. The kids like this one because they can be creative with the words. I like it because they do all the work!

My vocabulary tests are from the reading series and is just multiple choice, match word and definition.

I find that if the kids know we are going to play the next day, they go home and practice the words. Hope this helps.

Vocabulary Scramble
Posted by: EA

I play a game called "Vocabulary Scramble" with my kids. For each vocabulary word, I write the word and the definition on separate index cards (or small pieces of white paper.) I then tape each card face down on the front board. After the cards are taped, I number them (normally 1 through 20 or so). The class is then divided into 2 teams. One at a time, students are given the opportunity to call out numbers to find a matching pair -- a vocabulary word and a matching definition. When a number is called out, I turn that card over, allowing the whole class to see the hidden word or definition. If a team gets a match, their team earns a point, and somebody else on that team gets to pick again (for a maximum of 3 matches in a row correct -- then play switches to the other team.) If the pair is not a match, I turn the cards back over so the number side is showing. The winning teams has the most points at the end of the game! (Alternatively, you can set a goal of say 7 points -- any team who reaches that goal wins. That way everybody can be a winner!)

I find that the game works well with many different levels of students. It challenges the upper end of the class to remember which word/definition is hidden where. At the same time, struggling students are often eager to offer suggestions for numbers to check. Good luck! I hope this helps.

Posted by: JR

I teach in Texas also. What I have done to make a flip book with the voc. words and then find pictures in the newspaper to illustrate it. For example for the word addend they would find a number in the newpaper; then find another number glue them on and then write the word addend under each number and then try to find a picture to illustrate the sum. 1(addend) + 3(addend)= 4 separate pictures or 1 picture with 4 things in it. To make the flip book fold the paper horizontial then fold into thirds. Open the paper and cut on the fold onlly going up to the top of the paper don't cut all the way through. Write addend on the first flip lift up glue the number write addend on the second flip lift up put the second number write sum on the third flip lift up and put picture. You can do all the voc. words like that with and example. I like using them for expanded notation only I fold the paper vertically/we write the small number on the front and make it bigger(expand it inside) After you have done many vocabulary words you could hole punch them and string together with yarn. You could have them out for open house if it is early enough and it helps the parents too. Hope you understand all this.

vocabulary review
Posted by: BeBe Paul

We play a game called Row Race. Break the vocabulary words down into a group of 5 or so. Then write those five on the board or overhead. Tell the first student in each row to take out a piece of paper. The rows will race to see which row can use all the words in sentences or write all the definitions first. You choose which. The first person chooses their word writes it and then passes the paper back, each word can only be used once. The farther back the paper goes the more difficult it gets because the choices are narrowed. The first row to bring their paper to you and have it checked correct wins. This can also be adapted for parts of speech, math problems, etc...

Posted by: Boni

Our favorite vocabulary activity is Dictionary Day. With teacher approval, students choose words with which they think their classmates will be unfamiliar. They then dress up to illustrate the words. They must have the word somewhere on their costume. Activities that day include explaining their word to classmates and other word games. We also take pictures and each student creates a dictionary page for his/her word.

Posted by: A from Delaware

My class loves and is very successful with vocabulary-we also have about 6-8 new words each week.
On Fridays after their reading test they copy the new words and definitions (they look up the meaning) into a small vocabulary notebook that I provide at the beginning of the year.
On the following Mon.-Thurs. I spend about 10-20 mins doing vocabulary review. It may be a game I call "popcorn" where I give a clue to a word and they pop up and say it when I snap. Or, give out words or put them on the board and have the children write sentences with blanks and trade with a partner.
At this time we have about 50 words in our vocabulary to use since I keep adding words and any past word can be used too.
On Thursdays I give a vocabulary test and the parents know it is every Thursday. The test consist of anywhere from 15-20 items. I have match the word with the clue, fill in the blanks, and sometimes they need to write sentences with 1 or more words.
One fun part-and the children love it-is that whenever a student hears someone say a vocabulary word when they read aloud or speak they can yell "VOCABULARY" in class. (The district superintendent came to my class to read aloud 2 years ago. There happened to be a vocabulary word in the book he read. His presence did not stop my class-they screamed out "VOCABULARY"-I was so embarrassed-he went right along with it and asked them what the word meant-It was great!)
It makes them listen better and many of them try hard to use their vocabulary when they speak in class and at home.
The best part is that I also give the students a small sticker whenever they find a vocabulary word new or review in a written item-book, newspaper etc. The only exception I have is that it cannot be from the reading book or workbook since that is where the words originate from.

As you can tell I like vocabulary-I think it is so important that the students develop a strong vocabulary. I hope some of the ideas help you.