Mastering vocabulary is about much more than SAT scores. Student writing becomes richer and more engaging when they have a large reservoir of words to pull from. Open their minds to the magic of finding just the right word with these fun vocabulary activities. You’ll find options for every age, K-12. Even better, all of them work in any kind of classroom, both in-person (even socially-distanced!) and online.
1. Draw vocabulary sketchnotes
Kids and teachers love sketchnotes! Rather than writing out definitions, have students draw a sketch that sums up each word instead. It’s a lot more fun and gives kids an image for visuall association and to help remember the meanings.
Learn more: Now Spark Creativity
2. Post a Graffiti Wall
Think of a vocabulary graffiti wall like a collaborative word wall. In the classroom, post the words on the wall and have kids add sticky notes to illustrate the term (they can use words or pictures). Online, try a tool like Padlet or Google Slides.
Learn more: Digging Deeper
3. Try Flipgrid for vocabulary activities
Are you on the Flipgrid bandwagon yet? It’s perfect for vocabulary activities! Have kids record a quick video for each word, using their creativity to make it fun and meaningful.
4. Battle it out in Vocabulary Jeopardy
Good vocabulary activities encourage more than just memorization of definitions. That’s why we like this Jeopardy game idea. It explores synonyms and antonyms, and how words are used in real sentences.
Learn more: Not So Wimpy Teacher
5. Use RAFTs to write vocabulary stories
Writing a story using vocab words is a perennial favorite, but the RAFT method gives it a new twist. Students are assigned a Role (the point of view from which they’ll tell the story), an Audience, a Format, and a Topic. For instance, they might be an astronaut (Role) writing a postcard (Format) to their friends back home (Audience) about what they’ve seen on Mars (Topic). RAFTs are especially great for kids who claim they don’t know what to write about.
Learn more: Teaching Writing
6. Discover the power of words
Vocabulary words take on greater meaning when students incorporate them into their daily lives. Challenge kids to use their vocab words in conversation and writing outside the language arts classroom. Use the free printable worksheet here to help them keep track of how often they use them.
7. Create graphic organizers
Colorful organizers like these are terrific vocabulary activities. Want to go digital? Have kids make a slideshow, one slide per word. They can include the same information, but instead of drawing a picture, have them find one online that illustrates the concept.
Learn more: Upper Elementary Snapshots
8. Focus on a Word of the Week
Give really important terms the attention they deserve. Choose a new vocab word each week, then explore it in depth day by day.
Learn more: Lit In Focus
9. Join the Million Dollar Word Club
Post a list of target vocab words. If a student uses one of the words in class (outside of vocabulary activities), they become a member of the Million Dollar Word Club! You can have them sign their name on a wall in the classroom or award a badge online. You could even develop this into a reward system for homework passes or extra credit.
Learn more: The Sassy Apple
10. Explore shades of meaning
This is a cool idea for exploring synonyms and the slight differences that make words unique. Ask for paint sample strips at your local hardware store, or buy a clip art set. In the classroom, use these paint strips to make crafts for a bulletin board. Working in a virtual environment? Have kids print clip art strips at home, or use the images to make slides or digital worksheets.
Learn more: Around the Kampfire
11. Personify a word with social media
This is one of those vocabulary activities kids will want to do over and over again! Assign each student a word, and have them create a fake Facebook, Instagram, or other social media page for it. They can draw them freehand, or complete a template like these from Teachers Pay Teachers. Post the images to a shared Google slideshow so other students can use them for review.
Learn more: Reading and Writing Haven
12. Play vocabulary word Taboo
In this game, the goal is for one student to get their partner to guess the word by describing or giving examples of it. The trick? There’s a list of additional words they’re not allowed to use! Let other students see the card in advance to help keep the players honest. (Flash it on a whiteboard and have the guesser face away. If you’re online, hold up the card but have the guesser turn their back to the screen.)
Learn more: Teaching Talking
13. Roll a die for vocabulary activities
Choose a vocab word, then have the student roll a die (here’s a virtual option for online classrooms) to see which activity they get to complete.
Learn more: Lucky Little Learners
14. Write an acrostic
Write an acrostic poem for each vocab term, using the letters to determine the first word in each line. This can get really challenging when words are longer!
Learn more: Upper Elementary Snapshots
15. Become a Word Collector
This is one of those picture books that grown-up kids will enjoy as much as little ones. Use it to remind your kids that they don’t need a vocabulary list to learn new words—new words are all around them. Encourage them to keep a word list or journal of their own to record new words they want to explore and use more often.
Looking for more language arts ideas? Try these 11 Essential Tips for Teaching Theme.