Vocabulary is an important part of every subject; there are always words that students need to learn in order to better understand the concepts being taught. Unfortunately, many students struggle to remember what unfamiliar vocabulary words mean, or feel intimidated by the idea of simply memorizing definitions. No matter your subject material, you can help students learn difficult vocabulary using these 9 classroom vocabulary games!
Associating a vocabulary word with its synonyms is a great way to form lasting connections between the word and its definition. Here’s an exercise you can try with your students:
- Break the class into 2 groups.
- Assign each group half of the vocabulary words.
- Have students use a dictionary, thesaurus, or the Internet to discover synonyms for each vocabulary word.
- Then, have the groups take turns reading the list of synonyms to the other group.
- See if the groups can figure out what the word is based on its synonyms.
Recycle this familiar board game into a memorization exercise:
- Group students into pairs.
- Give each set of students a copy of this printable checkerboard:
- Students should write a vocabulary word in white space available in each square.
- As students play through a game of checkers, ask them to provide the correct definition of the word in the square they want to move their piece to.
- Another option could also be having the student use the vocabulary word in a sentence.
- If the student correctly defines the word or uses is in context, they get to claim that square.
3. Vocabulary Bingo
A similar idea to the checkers game, you can have students create their own Bingo card, with a vocabulary word in each space:
- Once the cards are assembled, read the definition of each word.
- Students should be able to determine what word you defined and put a counter on that square.
- Have students say “Bingo” when they get 5 words in a row.
- As an extra incentive, provide a prize for winners. It could be a free homework pass, candy, or small toy!
A great way to get the whole class involved is by playing Pictionary:
- Split the class into 2 teams.
- Have one student from each team come to the board.
- Assign them one vocabulary word to draw.
- The students’ teams should try to guess what vocabulary word is being drawn, within a certain time limit—whichever team guesses correctly first gets a point.
- Repeat with different members of each team coming to board until all the vocabulary words have been drawn, then tally the points, and declare a winning team!
Charades is set up similarly to Pictionary. However, instead of drawing, students act out the vocabulary word. If you have timid students, consider assigning 2 people to act out the words at a time, or breaking the class into smaller groups.
6. Circle Rotations
To get everyone up and moving, try a circle rotation exercise:
- Split the class in half, and have them form two concentric circles in the room, facing each other.
- Hand out flashcards to each student with a vocabulary word on one side and its definition on the other.
- Students in the inner circle can test the students in the outside circle and vice versa.
- Have the students in the outside circle rotate one person to their left each time until everyone has seen each word.
7. Trashcan Basketball
Another physically engaging group activity is trashcan basketball:
- Divide the class into 2 or 4 teams.
- Have each team take turns answering a vocabulary question.
- If they can answer correctly, the team gets 1 point.
- Then, give that team a ball (a crumpled up piece of paper will do).
- If the team can make a basket into the trashcan, reward the team an extra point.
- Repeat until all vocabulary words have been tested!
8. Newspaper Search
For a quieter activity for individuals or smaller groups, try having students look for pictures or articles in newspapers or magazines that relate to each vocabulary word. Give your students a set amount of time to complete the assignment then have them present their findings in groups or to the class.
9. Flyswatter Game
- Write each vocabulary word on the board.
- Divide the class into 2 teams.
- Have one student from each team come to the board holding a flyswatter.
- Read the definition of a vocabulary word.
- Students should race to see who can locate the correct word on the board the fastest.
- When they find it, they should hit the word on the board with the flyswatter.
- Play until everyone in the class has had at least one turn!
Classroom vocabulary games are some of the many fun teaching games out there and a great way to motivate students to study the words. It also helps them review the definitions. Most of these games don’t require a lot of preparation to play, so you can play them whenever you have extra time that you need to fill or just need a fun activity!