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Fun Vocabulary lessons?

Mrs. G

Senior Member
Does anyone have a fun way to introduce vocabulary from the reading textbook? We use a lot of context clue passages and such, but I would like something that is more exciting and doesn't take more than 10-15 minutes. Our time is very structured which makes it difficult to do many creative activities with vocabulary.

Thanks for any ideas you can offer.:p


Senior Member

i did something "fun" the other day--for the first time--it just came to me. when we were previewing a story from our basal, we looked at the words and their definitions. i elaborated where necessary and everyone then "acted out" the vocabulary words. luckily, the words were all, for the most part, "act outable": crestfallen, gaped, delved.... the kids enjoyed it, and i think it was more meaningful for them.

i also used picture definitions a lot lately, but i'll bet you've already done that!

what about having them relate the vocabulary words to their own lives? (when did they feel crestfallen? that D paper. when did they gape? when they were told recess was cancelled)....


Junior Member
QUick Game

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, etc...so 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.


Senior Member
great idea, danie

thanks! i love the "I have..." game--never thought to use it with vocab!


New Member

i started a class dictionary for my 6th graders. they love impressing people with the new words. in the front of my class is my "owning your vocabulary" display with my definition for vocabulary (the words and phrases we know and use to communicate effectively). next to that is a hand with one finger extended and a sign that reads "i have no idea what this word means;" then a hand with 2 fingers extended and a sign that reads "i've heard this word before, but don't know what it means;" then a hand with 3 fingers extended and a sign that reads "i think i can figure out a meaning for this word;" then a hand with 4 fingers extended and a sign that reads "i know this word and can use it in a sentence;" then a hand with all fingers extended and a sign that reads "i own this word because i've used it at least 3 times in my written and spoken communication." whenever we introduce a new vocabulary word, i ask for a show of hands to quickly assess where their understanding is. then we add the words to the class dictionary. we do this all the time with the goal of owning your vocabulary. it's been a great motivator for my class. they aren't afraid to ask what words mean now that they have seen how often their classmates hold up 1-3 fingers. we also post our favorite new words on the wall in class and remove them after everyone in class can hold up a five finger hand to show they own that particular word. our word wall is practically a living being with constant growth and "death" of words. i also make a big deal when someone in class uses a particularly interesting word in class, asking if they would like to add that word to the dictionary or the wall.


New Member
vocab game

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).


Cris's game

Cris, when they interact with a partner do they attempt to guess the definition for the partner's word? Once they guess the definition, they then trade cards and seek out a new partner? I'm trying to get a bead on this game because I just love vocabulary-building strategies.


Senior Member
Vocabulary Bingo

I am a Macintosh user and have a program that makes class numbers of unique bingo cards with 16 or 25 words or math facts. We play bingo with the cards. Students really enjoy this.

amy c

vocab races

I do vocab races with my kids and they LOVE it. You give each student a dictionary. I turn the overhead off and write a word on it. I say ready, set, go and I turn on the overhead. They look at the word and search for it in the dictionary as fast as they can. Once they find it they begin reading it (this way kids don't say "I found it" just to buy time) Who ever finds it first's team gets a point. Everyone finds the word and then writes it down in our vocab books. Then I turn the overhead head off and repeat. Surprisingly the same kids don't win over and over again, and everyone seems to enjoy it.



We only do one word a day.
The students practice looking it up in the dictionary.
I will use it in a sentence, so that students can practice using context clues.
They draw a picture- then share.
Use it in a sent.
Vocabulary Charades is a good way to review their words.
Vocab. Basketball.


Vocab Basketball?

What's vocab basketball? Are student's given a word/definition and asked to give the definition/word, earning a point for a correct answer and a point for "making a basket" (throwing ball in trashcan/other)?


Full Member

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!


Special Education Teacher

I use vocabulary basketball every week in my classroom. How I work it is: Using 3 strips of masking tape (a foot a part) I give students a definition and they have to give the word, if correct they move to the next line then they have to spell the word in order to move to the free throw line. My students love this game! they ask to play every week.


Senior Member
fun game

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 Discoveryschool.com, 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.

sue cat

vocab game

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.


Senior Member
Vocabulary Activities

There are two vocab activities that we partake in weekly. One focuses on spelling, one on comprehension.

The first is titled "Sparkle" ...

· Students stand at their desks.
· The teacher picks someone to begin from Team 1. Students will rotate through their teams.
· When the teacher says the spelling word the student must say the first letter and the next student the second letter and so on until the word is spelled.
· After the entire word is spelled, the student with the last letter (after saying the letter) will say "sparkle" and the student after that sits down.
· Students also sit down if they say a wrong letter.
· Keep going until there are only three students left. Each of those students will earn two board points for whichever team they’re in.

The other we call an "Index Card Review." Pass out an index card to each student and give them one of the week's spelling words. With markers, they neatly write the spelling word on the card and give it some decoration. When the students have written their word and their cards are ready, collect them. You will create a sentence based on the spelling word but leave the word out. For example, if the word is plastic, say “You should always recycle your BLANK.” Students will raise their hand and offer a spelling word to fill in the blank. They really get into it!


Flashlight Vocab

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


Vocabulary game

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.


Vocabulary Baseball

To teach our robust vocabulary from our basal, I made a baseball diamond out of posterboard and made some baseball players. After introducing our words, I put all of them on first base. As soon as someone uses a word, in the correct context, the word is then moved from 1st base to 2nd base and so on. The point of this is for students to use the words in regular conversation and if all the weekly words get to home base, the students are rewarded as a team. The students love it and get so happy when the words are moved from base to base.


vocab hunt

Instead of having students look up the words in the glossary. I wrote the definitions on index cards and hid them around the room. I had the students copy the vocab words off the board onto index cards. Then, they went on a hunt to find and copy down the definitions. When they were done, they illustrated the cards.

Mr. Landles

Vocab Around the World

This is a fun activity I remember from when I was at school. You give each student (or pair depending on availability) a dictionary. You stand at the front of the class and ask them to give you a word from the dictionary. You must then spell it, define it, or both. You get one point for getting the meaning correct, and one for the spelling. IF they stump you however, you swap places with the student that managed to catch you out, and they must take up the duty of defining the words. As an added bonus you can also get the students to write down the words that catch people out. Once they get into it, the students love it.


Senior Member
Here's a fun one I've done

Have a student come up to the front of the room. I have a tall director's chair the sixth grader can sit in. Another student stands behind the student in the chair and holds a flashcard above the student's head. The whole class can see the word except for the student in the chair, who calls on people in the class to give him/her clues. I think for the sake of time, so more students can have a chance, three clues & guesses and then we show the guesser the word.
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