Every subject in school has academic vocabulary that students are going to need to learn, so why not make it fun? In this post I’ll show you 3 common games I’ve adapted to making learning new vocabulary engaging for almost any subject area or grade level.
To start with, when you teach a new unit of study there is usually a set of academic vocabulary that goes along with it that students need to know to help them understand the content. When you’re planning a unit, make a list of the most important vocabulary words along with their definitions, sentences, and a picture if possible, to help students understand the word. This is especially helpful for ELL students.
Once you have your list made, write all your vocabulary words on a set of index cards with the word (and picture if you can) on one side and the definition on the other. Once you do this you’ll be ready to play any of these games.
In my class I made all of my vocabulary cards look like tradingcards to increase the engagement with my students. I’ve made these trading cards for over 80 topics and you can check them out in my TPTstore.
This is a Kagan cooperative learning game that many teachers use with task cards and it works perfectly for sets of vocabulary words with definitions. The object of the game is for students to quiz each other by giving the definition of the word or using it correctly in a sentence. Here’s how to play:
1.Give each student a vocabulary card.
2.Have your students pair up.
3.Partner A tells Partner B the vocabulary word on the card. Partner B tells Partner A the definition or uses the word in a sentence (or admits they don’t know it). Partner A then acknowledges the correct definition or gives it if needed. Partner A can also give Partner B a clue if needed by showing them the picture on the front of their card.
4.Partners then switch roles with Partner B sharing their vocabulary word.
5.After both partners have had a turn, they switch cards, find a new partner and play again.
This game will especially appeal to your visual learners! Here’s how to play:
•Split your students into 2 (or more) teams and place a set of the vocabulary cards face down in the front of the room.
•Have a student from Team A come up to the white board (or SMART board), take a card from the bottom of the deck and read it silently, and try drawing it.
•Students from both teams guess the vocabulary word being drawn and whichever team guesses correctly first gets a point.
•Then a player from Team B comes up and the process starts over.
•Whichever team has the most points when all of the cards have been used wins.
This game will especially appeal to your kinesthetic learners! Follow the same steps as above for the Drawing Game but instead of having students draw the picture on the card have them act it out while teams guess what word they are acting!
It takes a bit of time to make a set of vocabulary cards for a subject, but once they’re made you can use them for these games year after year. If you’d like to save yourself some time check out the trading cards in my TPTstore. I’ve already gone through the trouble of picking out the key vocabulary for almost 80 different topics, and finding pictures, definitions, sentences, and more to go with them. The trading cards come in sheets of 8 that just need to be printed out, cut up and they’re ready to go.