10 Engaging Vocabulary Activities

Developing vocabulary is crucial in children's growth as readers. In order to understand the text, students must first have an understanding of the words they are reading; therefore, vocabulary instruction is an important component to reading comprehension.

Three important instructional practices in vocabulary instruction include:

1. Providing a student-friendly definition as well as examples of using the word correctly in sentences. 

2. Giving students an opportunity to apply the word to their own experiences and make connections with the words.

3. Practicing using the word through engaging activities.

Practicing using the words can be an opportunity to add some fun and excitement to your lessons. Here are 10 tried and true activities that my kiddos love, and hopefully, yours will too!

1.  Fly Swat

Yes, this game is on every vocabulary idea list that you find, and it is there for a good reason. I have used this game in my classroom for over 20 years, and students still get excited about this fun and simple activity. All you need are 2 fly swats and a whiteboard. I simply write the vocabulary words randomly on the board, and divide my class into two teams. One member from each team comes to the board. Call out a definition or a sentence that is missing the vocabulary word, and the first person to swat the word gets to stay at the board. The next player from the opposing team comes to the board and play continues until everyone has had a chance to play. Kids love this game and beg for more. Easy, fast, and fun!

2. Vocabulary Flipbooks

This is a fun and easy way to review vocabulary words. Fold a paper in half "hot-dog" style. Cut the front flap for the number of words that you would like for the students to use and review. I usually have the students to write the vocabulary word on the front and draw a picture about the word. On the inside, students can define and use the word in a sentence.

3. Index card strips

This is another fun way and simple way to review vocabulary using index cards.  See this link for instructions.

4. Play Popcorn

This is another game that I have used for 20 plus years, and it is still a hit in the classroom. This is similar to Around the World. I simply divide my class into two teams, although they are not competing against one another. One person from each team stands. Call out a definition, and the first person to say the word remains standing. The other person sits down and the next person on that person's (the one who just sat down) team stands. Play continues around the room until everyone gets to play.

5. Technology

With technology today, there are so many fun ways to review and learn vocabulary with online games. Some of our classroom favorites include Kahoot, Quizziz, and Quizlet Live. I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies. I believe that each of these websites have paid versions, but I simply use the free versions which provide everything that I need for my students. I love all three, but I especially love how Quizlet live enables students to collaborate in order to determine the correct answers!

6. Graphic Organizers for Vocabulary

Graphic organizers can be a great way for students to think about and use vocabulary.  This set of  Vocabulary Graphic Organizers is designed to help your students think deeply about vocabulary. 14 vocabulary graphic organizers are included in this packet along with examples of completed g.o.'s. Students may use dictionaries, glossaries, or context clues to complete the pages as they review and think about vocabulary. This is also a great review for synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, root words, parts of speech and more.

7. Will the Real Word Please Stand? 

Another simple vocabulary activity is Will the Real Word Please Stand. Give each student a vocabulary word written on an index card. Several students may have the same word if needed. Call out a definition. If a student has the index card with the correct vocabulary word, she should stand. Continue until all words are reviewed.

8. Word UP 

If you are planning a read-aloud, whether it is a picture book or a chapter book, before you read aloud the book, search for vocabulary words and write each one on an index card. Distribute the cards to students, and as the book is read aloud, students should hold up appropriate cards each time the vocabulary word is read.

9. Illustrate the Word

 Illustrating a vocabulary word not only incorporates creativity into a lesson, this also provides a visual learning element to the lesson in which students are more likely to remember the word. This is why I always incorporate illustrating in flipbooks and in many of my graphic organizers.

10. Character Trait of the Day 

I have found that the biggest struggle that my students have with character traits is that they are not familiar with the vocabulary (character traits), so I begin each day with a character trait of the day. I simply introduce a character trait and its definition, and when appropriate, provide an example from a recent read-aloud or from a popular book. Students then turn to a partner to use the word in a sentence or to describe a character in a book in which they have recently read. This is a quick and simple way to introduce this needed vocabulary.

Varying vocabulary instruction and activities will help keep lessons new, fresh, and exciting for your students. For more ideas AND A FREEBIE on creating a vocabulary-rich environment in your classroom, visit my blog post at Teaching Fourth.

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