Category Archives: Vocabulary

Vocabulary Ideas

Have you ever been at a point in your career when there are so many different things you want to do that you feel like a totally ineffective teacher because you can’t pull them all off? Tell me it’s not just me! I have so many things I want to do, but if I don’t take time to slow down, I won’t do them well. So I live in the state of wanting to do more but trying to be intentional to accomplish things and make the most of my time with my students. One of the things I’ve been tempted to skip is vocabulary. It’s easy, and kids seem to understand the words after just a day or two with new words. But I think it’s so important that students really take time everyday to master and review words. So, here are some of my favorite activities for vocabulary lessons.

1. Context Clues – Before I teach new words, I give students sentences with context clues for the words and ask them to write predicted definitions. Today, I wrote one sentence with each word, printed the sentences on separate pages in large font, and posted them around the room. We did a carousel activity. Students travelled in teams. They had 45 – 60 seconds at each poster to read the sentence and write a predicted definition in their journals.

2.  Frayer Models


I always have students take notes for their vocabulary words in frayer models. I modify my model so it has squares for student-friendly explanations, pictures, sentences, and examples/non-examples. We discuss the answers to their context clues while I use a powerpoint with dictionary definitions and pictures of examples and non-examples to present the new words. As a closure activity for each word, students paraphrase the dictionary definition and teach it to a partner.

3.  Drawing Activity – Students have 45 – 60 seconds to draw a picture that helps them remember the meaning of a word. Then, they hold it up and explain it to their partner. I use the sentence starter “I drew this for ___ because . . . ” Then, I repeat this activity with each word.

4.  Example and Non-Example Cards – I cut construction paper into small cards. I give each student the same number of cards as we have words. Sometimes I give sets of cards to partners instead of students. Students discuss words with teammates. They write an example of a word on one side of a card and a non-example on the other. They do NOT label the card. After 5-10 minutes, students stand up and find a partner from another team. They trade cards and work to label their partner’s cards with the correct words.

5.  Fan & Pick – This is a fabulous Kagan structure for vocabulary. Put students into groups of 4 and give each group cards or strips of paper with the vocabulary wrods listed on them. Team member 1 fans out the words like a deck of cards. Team member 2 picks a card and reads it. Team member 3 defines the word. Team member 4 coaches and praises. I have all of these jobs listed on a table mat, and for the next round, they rotate the map so they can rotate jobs.

6.  Roll a Word – Put students in groups … again, I like groups of 4. Give each group a stack of cards with the words written on them and a die. Students take turns rolling the die. Assign different tasks for each number. I like to have them spell the word, define it, use it in a sentence, give the part of speech, give a synonym or an example, and give an antonym or non-example. Students take turns answering for a set amount of time. Whoever has the most points wins. Sometimes I give prizes like stickers or candy, but usually, I just tell them great job, and they don’t care because the activity was fun.

7. Crossword Competition – I use this crossword puzzle maker to create a crossword using our vocabulary words. I give one puzzle to each team and ask each student to use a different colored pen or pencil. Students work together, but they must take turns answering a crossword clue. The team who finishes first wins and gets to help their classmates with the clues that stumped them.

8.  Find Someone Who – I try to do this activity the day before a quiz or a test. I print a Bingo type table listing several vocabulary words and blank spaces. Students can them move about the room asking their classmates to define words. Then the student writes the definition from the classmate on their papers along with the classmate’s name. They can only talk to each classmate once. I like this activity right before a quiz or test because they can take the paper home to use as a study guide.

9.  Ask a Word – I usually use this as a center. It’s super fun! I got it from that Florida site. Give students interview questions and have them conduct a faux interview with their word. Kids like this because they get to be creative, and teachers like it because students think critically about their words.

10.  Likert Scale – Another Florida activity. Students create a scale showing one extreme in meaning to the other. Their vocabulary word could fall anywhere along the scale. I love this activity because it helps kids learn the nuances of words and helps them learn to choose the correct synonyms from a thesaurus. Plus, kids love it.

Ok, your turn. I know you have them! Fabulous vocabulary lessons … share!


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Filed under Lesson Ideas, Student Engagement, Vocabulary