Top 5 vocabulary games

It’s been well documented that vocabulary is learnt far more effectively if pupils encounter it regularly and in varied ways. In fact, studies in to how to teach vocabulary effectively suggest that on average, a pupil needs to encounter a word on 7 different occasions before it is securely learnt. Playing games is a great way to increase vocabulary exposure, so try these out and let us know what you think.

Quick draw!

This is a really simple game to enable students to become active participants in their vocabulary revision. Here’s how to use it in your classroom:

1. Pre-select words in a category. For example if you are teaching plants to KS3 students, you may select the words: nutrient, stem, xylem, photosynthesis, chlorophyll.

2. Write each target word on a separate piece of paper.

3. Give the word to a pupil. Said pupil has to draw a picture representing the word on the board and the class have to guess the term. Weaker pupils could select the terms from a word bank on the board.

Traffic lights

This game encourages students to think about synonyms and antonyms of words, which allows them to build semantic links between vocabulary. Here’s how you could play:

1. Give pairs of students a thesaurus and green, orange and red post it notes.

2. Display the target word on the board.

3. On each green post it note, students write a synonym of the target word; on the red, antonyms; on the orange, any words they are unsure about.

4. The pair of students with the most filled in red and green post it notes wins.

5. Finish the game with a discussion about some of the amber post it notes.

Root relay

This is a game created by vocab researchers Scott, Miller & Flinspach (2012). Whilst a bit of preparation is required, the game itself is challenging and students find it to be a fun way to understand more about how words are constructed.

To play you will need to do the following:

1. Write an assortment of roots, prefixes and suffixes on individual cards.

2. Put the roots in a roots box and the prefixes and suffixes in an affixes box.

3. In teams, students have to send a runner to get one root and affix per run until the team manage to create an existing English word.

4. Jazz up the game with different scoring sound effects for each team.

Snowball fight

This one is a quick way to practise using target vocabulary and students generally enjoy it too! Play it as follows:

1. Everyone writes a sentence containing target vocabulary. They screw up their paper and throw it to another student.

2. Each student takes a new snowball and replies to or extends the previous statement using another new word.

3. Repeat this until all words are used.

4. End the game with peer assessment on correct usage and any potential improvements.

Word charades

We wouldn’t call this game groundbreaking but its simplicity and ease of use makes it a great strategy for revising key vocabulary. Use it as a mini plenary or at the end of a lesson where key vocabulary has been taught.

You’ve all played a game of charades but here’s how to play:

1. Allow students to pick a word or give one to them.

2. They have to act out the key word as clearly as possible, trying to think carefully about how to convey the meaning of the word.

3. Set timers to encourage pace and have students offer synonyms and antonyms of the words once they have guessed them correctly.

Let us know how you get on over on Twitter.

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