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English Language Arts Blog

The home of Vocab Gal and other educational experts K–12 resources

August 25, 2011 VG Teaching Resources Vocab & ELA Res, VG Writing with Vocabulary 6-12, VG Writing with Vocabulary K-5, Vocab Gal, ELA K-5, ELA 6-8, ELA Resources - Activities, ELA 9-12, ELA Resources - Games, ELA Focus - Vocabulary

Vocabulary Practice: Improv + Vocabulary = Kinesthetic Vocab Vim!

I had grand aspirations of becoming an integral member of my college’s improv comedy troup[1] but I just cannot be funny so spontaneously and so continually.  However, in the midst of tryouts, I learned a truly amazing warm-up that I adapted for vocabulary learning.  Chaos and laughter will ensue if you try this kinesthetic exercise, and I guarantee that students will learn at least two vocabulary words fully –and upwards of 15 words in about 10-15 minutes of play. I hope you can get the last laugh!


  1. Assign each student in your class a different vocabulary word 1 min

  2. Have each student quickly learn the definition to his/her word 1 min

  3. Have students form one large circle so they are all side by side[2] 1 min

  4. Start with the first student and have him/her loudly say his/her vocabulary word along with a quick motion for the word (if the word is exhilarated, s/he could wave hands in the air while shouting “exhilarated!”) 15 sec

  5.  After the student performs the action while saying the word, have the rest of the students repeat the word and motion together (the circle together repeats “Exhilarated!” while their hands wave) 15 sec

  6.  Have the next student in the circle quickly, without much thought, say his/her word along with a simple motion that suggests the definition. 15 sec

  7.  Have the circle repeat the word and motion together 15 sec

  8.  Repeat until every student has given his/her word and motion and the class has repeated every word and motion 5 min

  9.  Go around the circle one more time, having students repeat their word and motion and then the class repeat word and motion (Exhilarated!{hands wave}, Exhilarated!{all hands wave}, Opulent!{fingers rub together like counting bills} Opulent! {all fingers rub together}) 2 min

  10. Now the fun part!  One student must say his/her word and motion, then someone else’s.  That person must repeat his/her word and motion, then someone else’s.  The trick is to remember other people’s words and motions so you can AS FAST AS POSSIBLE do another’s word and motion after being called. Remaining time (7 min or more)                                                              


Example Vocabulary Practice:

  • Seth says “Exhilarated!” and waves his hands in air, then cries “Opulent!” and rubs his fingers together.

  • Sue (whose word was opulent) says “Opulent!”, rubs her fingers together then says “Unkempt” and runs her fingers through her hair.

  • George (whose word was unkempt) says “Unkempt!” runs his fingers through his hair and then pauses, pauses, can’t think, can’t think….and has to sit down (on the floor, in the middle of the circle) because he wasn’t quick enough to remember someone else’s word/motion.

  • The person to the left of Sue must start, saying his/her word and motion first, then calling on someone else…and the game continues until someone else can’t remember a word and motion fast enough.


No one can repeat the word/motion of the person who just called them (aka Sue couldn’t have repeated Seth’s word/motion for “Exhilarated!” or no one else would ever get called on).

2. This exercise can go in any order-not everyone needs to be called upon once in order for a word to be repeated-the activity could jump from exhilarated to opulent to unkempt and back to exhilarated and then to inclement and back to opulent etc.

3. If you find your class size impacts the pace of this activity, split them up into groups of 10-15 members once everyone has learned the rules.


Speaking & Listening Standard 1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations
Language Standard 4. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown words
Language Standard 6. Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge



[1] Our college mascot was the “Battling Bishop” and the comedy troup was called the “Babbling Bishops.” Best. pun name. ever.

[2] You may need to go to the end of your hallway if your room is too small