Teaching vocabulary is essential! But it has to be more than just memorization of definitions and looking up words in a dictionary! Students learn vocabulary words best when they are immersed in the language rather than rote memorization. Vocabulary games are a great way to engage students and give them some unique practice using and exploring their vocabulary words. I’ve gathered 5 of my favorite hands on vocabulary games that I think you would love to use in your own classroom!
Vocabulary Game #1: Free Association
Free association is a very open ended activity your students can do with any vocabulary word they are working on. It’s a great activity to do whole group but makes a great center, group, or independent activity as well. You can make it very ‘paper/pencil’, like I have pictured below OR you can make it more interactive with post it notes or note cards and large butcher block paper. That is typically how I use it if it’s a center to help motivate and engage students more when they are working.
Here’s how it works! Make a basic web with the vocabulary word in the center. Then, around the web, have students write any word they might associate with the vocabulary word. I’ve given an example in the picture! Anything goes in this activity. If a student can justify their association, then it can be used! If you’re doing the more interactive activity rather than the paper/pencil, instead of having them write the words around the web – simply have them write the words on post it notes or index cards and place them around a larger web you’ve created on anchor chart paper.
I love creating more than one web at a time and really letting students dig deep into the association with the words. I even challenge them to find an association between two of the vocabulary words themselves! Sometimes that can be quite a challenge!
Vocabulary Game #2: Trash & Treasure
This is a super simple but fun game you can play whole group or as a center! To prep, you will need to write out or type sentences or examples of your vocabulary words – some correctly used and some incorrectly used. For example, you may give an incorrect synonym for a word on one page. Then on another page you correctly use a different vocabulary word in a sentence. Then on another page you incorrectly give an example of the word. You want to have a good mix of ways you use the words as well as correct and incorrect answers.
When you’re ready to play, students will read each card/piece of paper and decide whether the card is trash, meaning it is incorrect or that it is treasure, meaning that it is correct. If you want to push your students, have them correct the ‘trash’ cards that they have identified!
Vocabulary Game #3: Toss & Answer
Kids love to play with balls so why not use one when practicing vocabulary words? To make this hands on vocabulary game, all you need is a piece of paper cut up into small rectangles, an old muffin tin, and a small ball. Write a vocabulary word on each piece of paper and place them into the muffin tin spots. Then have the students one at a time toss the ball and see if they can land it into one of the spots. Once they do, they have to define the word (or you can challenge them to give a sentence, synonym, antonym, etc). If they can, then they get to keep the word card. If not, then it is the next players turn.
Keep playing until all of the word cards have been taken. The player with the most cards win! The great thing about this game is that it is super fast to prep AND you can play it multiple times and have a completely different experience with the words in the game.
Vocabulary Game #4: Roll a Word
Ok, this might not be the easiest to prep activity – because these dice can be a PAIN! BUT, kids LOVE playing with dice and this is a super fun way to get kids analyzing words in all different directions rather than just defining the word. With this game, students will roll the dice (shown in picture) and where it lands, they will fill in the recording sheet of a word of their choice. Their goal is to fill in the entire recording sheet for all of their words.
If you don’t want to make these dice, you can always use dry erase dice and use a permanent marker too – that way is much easier!
Vocabulary Game #5: Tic-Tac-Toe
Another super easy prep activity for students to play is tic-tac-toe! All you need to do is print out or draw out your tic-tac-toe board and have small cards with vocabulary words on them. To play, students will play regular tic-tac-toe by placing down one of the vocabulary cards onto the spot that they claim. BUT instead of moving on, they have to spot and define the word. If defined correctly, then they can draw their X or their O on top of the card to claim it and that spot. Super fun and easy!
Grab your *F*R*E*E* vocabulary game printables if you are interested in trying out any of the games above!
If you are LOVING these games and want some more awesome ideas on how to make vocabulary practice a bit more fun, then you’ll definitely want to check out my Vocabulary Strategies resource! It is packed with over 30 different activities that can be used with ANY vocabulary word list! Many of the activities comes with its own recording sheet as well! Definitely worth checking out if you want to put MORE into your vocabulary instruction! If you’re needing to focus on academic vocabulary, definitely check out my blog post on how we work that into our everyday routine as well!
If you love this post and want to save it for later, make sure to pin the image below!