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English Language Arts Blog

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

March 8, 2022 ELA K-5, ELA Resources - Activities, ELA Resources - Games, ELA Focus - Vocabulary

Vocabulary Activities for Elementary School That Students Love

In this article, you’ll find great ideas for teaching vocabulary to students in grades 1–5. We will share access to engaging vocabulary games and activities to help students learn new words, and we will show you how to use them with the help of vocabulary expert Vocab Gal, Sarah Ressler Wright.


Key Ideas about Vocabulary Instruction

According to researcher William Nagy, there are three things you need for great vocabulary instruction everyday:

  • Integration of vocabulary into different aspects of the day
  • Reiteration to make words understood through repetition
  • Relevance to help students understand the connections among and the importance of words.

This collection of vocabulary activities for elementary school will provide opportunities for integrating, reiterating, and demonstrating the relevance of vocabulary instruction across the grades. Students will learn, practice, and use new words with these customizable and colorful games and activities.

Learn a little more about the three integral parts of vocabulary instruction - integration, reiteration, and relevance - and why they are important.

Printable Vocabulary Games

Game #1: Vocabulary Checkers

In this printable vocabulary game board, the rules of checkers get a vocabulary makeover. There are two steps to playing Vocabulary Checkers. First, students must fill out the game board with vocabulary words, which can be a daily vocabulary practice exercise. Once the checkerboard is complete, students can use markers as game pieces and play Vocabulary Checkers in pairs. In order for players to move onto a space in this game, they must accurately use the vocabulary word on the intended square in a sentence. Likewise, if players want to “double jump,” they must use both vocabulary words in the same sentence. If one or both of the words is used incorrectly, the move cannot be made at all. All other checker rules apply.


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Check out an example checkerboard and a detailed explanation of how you can use this game in your elementary classroom.

Game #2: Vocabulary Bingo

This printable game board is a variation on classic Bingo. To earn credit for the “free” spot on the bingo card, students must accurately write a vocabulary word in a sentence. The remainder of the card can be filled out with just vocabulary words (no hints!). Students must then match definitions or synonyms called out during game play to the corresponding words on the sheet. Five across, down, or diagonal win. For added challenge, ask winning students to use all five “Bingo” words in a sentence that makes sense.


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See a sample Bingo card and get a simple walk-through of the vocabulary variation of this classic game.

Game #3: You’re On a Roll!

This versatile vocabulary activity for elementary school students and beyond does a lot of heavy lifting with lots of variations to keep it fresh and fun. In this game, students roll dice and use vocabulary words to complete specific tasks listed on this printable worksheet. There are two suggested ways to play to keep it simple or give the students added challenge.


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Check out the different ways to play this versatile dice game with students in grades 3-12.

Game #4: Vocabulary Land

This printable game board invites students to learn vocabulary while having fun with peers. By adding vocabulary words to the board game squares on this template, every game can be unique. Laminating the boards in advance and using dry erase markers makes this printable a permanent fixture in your vocabulary classroom. Students roll dice to move markers along the board and race to complete the prompts correctly within a time limit to advance. Winners reach the finish first and successfully finish the challenge waiting there.


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Follow these instructions for playing Vocabulary Land and learn how it supports the three integral parts of vocabulary instruction.


Printable Vocabulary Activities  for Elementary School

Activity #1: Vocabulary Pumpkin Patch 

These seasonal vocabulary activities for elementary school are well-suited to fall and can be adapted for any specific literary technique that you want to hone in your class. Students describe pumpkins in this simple writing activity for fall. A version for younger students and a version for older students is included to make this activity appropriate for a wide range of learners.


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Learn how to modify this lesson for your particular needs and grade level.

Activity #2: Name a Car!

Can your students imagine a car and then write compelling advertisement messages using their vocabulary words? Invite them to name a new vehicle and soup it up using vocabulary. Students can create a car model name or brand, then design the car visually and write a paragraph detailing the features of the car that highlight the vocabulary word’s meaning.


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Learn about a cool (imaginary) new vocabulary-inspired car, the Toyota Assault, in this video about the Name a Car! vocabulary activity.

Activity #3: Falling into Vocabulary Haikus 

A haiku is a three-line poem that originated in Japan during the seventh century. These poems are usually written about nature and capture a single image or moment in time. The structure is based on syllables: five in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third. Students use the leaf shapes on this printable template to compose their own haiku using the rules for syllables and their vocabulary words.


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Want to know how to make this poetry activity really successful for students in any grade? Listen to how you can scaffold and customize this fall haiku activity.

Activity #4: Menu for the Perfect Thanksgiving

In this vocabulary activity for elementary school, the students are the chefs and they are cooking up a descriptive Thanksgiving menu. Different versions for younger and older students invite them to design the perfect meal whether they are in grades 1–5 or 6–12. This activity is accompanied by a drawing element that supports younger students.


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Getting students to have fun with vocabulary is the goal of this seasonal activity. Adapt this Thanksgiving-inspired menu to help students describe a perfect meal.

Activity #5: The Turkey's Talking 

If the turkey is on the menu for the Perfect Thanksgiving Activity, this activity gives him a chance to talk his way out. This silly seasonal activity is meant for fun and students can utilize vocabulary to help the turkey convince diners that the Thanksgiving sides are really the showpiece of the feast. Like the other activities, this activity is meant to be customized by grade and the teacher’s goals and needs.


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Review the directions for customizing The Turkey's Talking activity for the students and vocabulary words in your classroom. 

In Summary

Those were your 9 vocabulary activities for elementary school students that they are sure to love and that will improve their vocabularies. If you're looking for more resources or games, check out this blog that shares information on ways to make the word building process more exciting for students and help teachers improve vocabulary instruction.