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10 Classroom Vocabulary Games For All Ages

How Vocabulary Games Improve Student Vocab Retention

Games can be an excellent tool to supplement and support vocabulary instruction. Using vocabulary games in your classroom allow students to practice vocabulary in fun but also impactful ways. Students love games because they are engaging and exciting, and teachers love games because they help students remember and use their words in new contexts.

Vocabulary games are social. Games engage students as they interact with each other and are challenged to use newly acquired vocabulary words. When you use vocabulary games in the classroom, students not only learn from and with one another but also become more excited about and engaged in learning. Whether they are collaborating or competing, students must think creatively about vocabulary to play and win.

Using games to reinforce new vocabulary words and skills gives students the opportunity to practice these words, which is super important to vocabulary! Familiar games can be varied and revisited for new sets of words, making games a powerful practice tool in your classroom.

You're On a Roll

When to Play

You’re On a Roll is a fun and social game to play to help students in grades 3 through 12 practice their vocabulary. Individuals or groups of students can play this game, which asks them to use vocabulary words to define, provide synonyms and antonyms, connect to other words and use the words in the context of questions, sentences, and even jokes and puns.

Materials Needed

To play, all you will need is dice and a list of vocabulary words, plus the printable game cards.

Rules

There are two ways to play this game. For both options, divide the class into groups of three to five (depending on how many dice you have) and give each group a list of vocabulary words. For option 1, have the first student in the group roll the dice and then use the first word in the list in his or her answer. The next student in the group rolls and also uses the first word in the list in his or her answer. Once all group members have used the first word, students can move on to the second word, then the third, and so on. For the second option, have the first student in the group roll the dice and then use the first word in the list in his or her answer. The next student in the group rolls and uses the second word in the list in his or her answer. This continues until all the words on the list are used. A suggested time limit per student on both of these options is 30 to 60 seconds.

Who Wins

Everyone wins! The practice is engaging and very social.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes for this game as you see fit!

Oranges to Oranges

When to Play

Playing Oranges to Oranges practices weekly vocabulary words and lets students in grades 4 through 12 learn together and from each other.

Materials Needed

To play, you will need Apples to Apples®, the board game by Mattel®. Let your students make green vocabulary cards to swap into the game using the download, your vocabulary list, and writing implements.

Rules

Divide your students into groups of five so the game moves quickly and students maintain focus. To play, follow the rules of Apples to Apples®. Five to seven players are dealt five red cards each that are all nouns. The pile of green adjective cards that your students have created is then placed in the middle face down. The adjective cards have a word in bold, with synonyms written beneath. Every other player must then decide which of his/her red cards the starter would most likely consider the best example of the word, and gives to the starter, face down. Once the starter receives a red card from everyone, s/he shuffles them to retain players’ anonymity, turns them over, reads them aloud, and chooses a winner based on what s/he thinks best describes the adjective on her or his green card. The winner gets to hold on to the green card, and the player to the left of the starter selects a new green card.

Who Wins

The game typically continues until one person earns seven green cards. But you can vary the rules and decide how many cards are needed to “win.”

Reward Ideas

Award prizes for this game as you see fit!

Go Fish

When to Play

The Go Fish Vocabulary Game is a great game to play to help 1st through 12th grade students master tricky vocabulary words since it will support students in learning their definitions. Use words that students don’t know well to play this game.

Materials Needed

To play, you will need a completed deck of cards provided in the Go Fish Vocabulary Game download. Complete the deck with word lists of your choice.

Rules

The game is played like a traditional Go Fish game with a vocabulary spin. First, create a set of cards with ten or twenty words that students don’t know well. Have students play in groups of two to four, dealing out seven cards each if there are two players, six cards for three players, and five cards for four players. Cards that are not dealt go into the draw pile in the center of the table. Starting clockwise, the first student asks another student if s/he has a card. However, instead of simply asking for the card by naming the vocabulary word on it, the student has to ask for the card by providing the definition for the word. If the asked student doesn’t have the specific card requested, s/he says, “Go Fish for Vocab!” and the student requesting the card must select from the draw pile.

Who Wins

The first person to get five pairs wins, provided s/he can use the vocabulary words from each pair in one to three sentences. If s/he cannot, the round continues until another person gets five pairs.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes for this game as you see fit!

Vocabulary Land

When to Play

Vocabulary Land is an opportunity for students to develop stronger understandings of words through multiple exposures, and a chance for students to have fun together playing a board game. The game is suitable for students in grades 4 through 12.

Materials Needed

To play the game, students need a completed game board available from the download, dice, and a marker for each child to use on the board. The game board can be printed and populated with a vocabulary word in each blank space.

Rules

Vocabulary Land is similar to Hasbro® Candy Land™. Players will begin with markers at the Beginning Basin and roll to move markers that number of spaces forward on the board. If the player can answer the question on the new space correctly within one minute, then his or her marker may remain on the square. If the player cannot answer the question, he or she must go back to the space before the dice were rolled.

Who Wins

Play continues until someone reaches Lake Lexion and wins the game. To win, a player must complete the question on the Finish square. Play can continue to then see who will finish second, third, etc.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes for this game as you see fit!

Vocabulary Scrabblez

When to Play

Vocabulary Scrabblez helps students in grades 4 through 12 to internalize vocabulary words in a unique and thoughtful way as they earn points for using words in this variation of a popular board game. As part of the game, students must also explain why each of their vocabulary words is awesome.

Materials Needed

To play, you will need the game Scrabble®, by Hasbro®, and the Vocabulary Scrabblez Scoring Sheet from the download.

Rules

Divide students into groups of 2 to 4 players. Each player will use his or her Vocabulary Scrabblez score sheet to record his or her answers. To start, players draw a tile. The player with the letter closest to “A” plays first. A blank tile beats any letter. Return the letters to the pool and remix. All players draw seven new letters.

The first player combines two or more letters to form a word and places it in the center of the gaming area either across or down. Diagonal words are not allowed. Students complete a turn by counting and announcing the score for that turn and recording the word on the Vocabulary Scrabblez Score Sheet and drawing as many new letter tiles as were played. Players should always have seven letter tiles, as long as there are enough tiles left.

Play passes to the left. The second player, and then each, in turn, adds one or more letters to those already played to form new words. All letters played on a turn must be placed in one row across or down, to form at least one complete word. The player gets full credit for all words formed or modified on his or her turn. The two blank tiles may be used as any letters, but when playing a blank, players must state which letter it represents. A turn may be used to exchange all or some of a player’s letter tiles.

Any play may be challenged before the next player starts a turn. During a challenge, players can consult their vocabulary book or the dictionary. If this does not result in a clear decision, the teacher can judge if a word is unacceptable. If any word challenged is judged unacceptable, then the entire play is unacceptable. The player must remove the word from the board and wait until his or her next turn to play again. The game ends when all letters have been drawn or all ten rows have been filled in on the Vocabulary Scrabblez Score Sheet.

Who Wins

At the end of the game players will compare score sheets to determine the winner.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes for this game as you see fit!

Vocab Zee

When to Play

Play the Vocab-Zee Dice Game with students to practice their vocabulary words and assess their ability to use vocabulary words in context with time limits. This game is suitable for grades 3 to 12 and beyond.

Materials Needed

In addition to the handout with the list of vocabulary actions and corresponding dice rolls, you will need five dice per group to play this game.

Rules

In Vocab-Zee, similar to Hasbro® Yahtzee™, students perform vocabulary-based actions that coincide with the dice numbers they roll. Each player will take turns rolling all five dice. They have up to three turns to roll the best round of dice. The player rolling can set aside the dice they want to keep and roll only part of the five dice. Once a player has completed their three rolls, they earn their points by completing the vocabulary action(s) based on their final set of dice. Only if they complete all the actions accurately do they earn points for their turn. Players have up to one minute to think before completing their given action(s). If they cannot perform the action after one minute of preparation, they forfeit any points and the next student in the group rolls.

Who Wins

The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Reward Ideas

This game is a reward in and of itself, but you can award prizes as you see fit.

Vocabulary Bingo

When to Play

Vocabulary Bingo is an opportunity to see if students know the definitions of their vocabulary words. It’s suitable for grades 1 through 12.

Materials Needed

To play this game, you will need bingo markers and a game board for each student, as well as writing implements for students to fill in the boards.

Rules

On the blank Vocabulary Bingo game board, each student writes only their vocabulary words on the Bingo card, without hints as to what each word means. The teacher calls out only definitions or synonyms of each word to the class; each student has to match the teacher’s definition with the proper word on his/her sheet. The object of the game is to get five across, down, or diagonal on the game board.

Who Wins

Students can shout “Bingo!” if they get five across, down, or diagonal. The winning student must confirm that the words on his/her Bingo board match the definitions that have been called out by the teacher.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes as you see fit!

Vocabulary Checkers

When to Play

Find out if your students can use their vocabulary words properly in context with a game of Vocabulary Checkers. This game is a fun spin-off of a classic checkers game for two players and is suitable for students in grades 1 through 12.

Materials Needed

To play, each pair of students will need a Vocabulary Checkers checkerboard, writing implements to complete the board, and game pieces (pennies and nickels, two different colored dots, or classic check game pieces can be used).

Rules

Each player should put game pieces on the 12 dark squares in the first three rows closest to him or her. Players then take turns moving the checkers one space diagonally. When a player wants to make a move, she or he has to say a sentence using the vocabulary word on the space to which she or he wants to move. A player who does not use the vocabulary word correctly in the sentence does not get to move. Likewise, if a player wants to “double jump,” she or he must use both vocabulary words in the same sentence. If one of the words is used incorrectly, the move cannot be made at all. All other checkers rules apply!

Who Wins

The first player to remove their opponent’s pieces from the board wins.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes as you see fit!

Bracket Battles

When to Play

Bracket Battles is a vocabulary challenge in which students fill out brackets to decide the “ultimate vocabulary word” in several categories. This challenge allows students in grades 2 through 12 to learn vocabulary autonomously. They’ll need to know the parts of speech and how to use their words in context in order to win. This challenge is a great opportunity to review longer or older word lists along with current vocabulary.

Materials Needed

Each student needs three blank copies of the Bracket Template (one for nouns, one for verbs, and one for adjectives) in the download as well as writing implements to complete it.

Rules

Using the Bracket Template, students will complete the far left eight spaces with vocabulary words that are that specific part of speech. In the first column, have students write one sentence using both of the words in each initial faceoff, which highlights why one of the words is “greater” than the other. Once students have written sentences for the initial duels, they should then write sentences using the winners of each bracket. Again, for each pairing, each sentence should use both words and highlight one word dominating the other.

Who Wins

Why one word defeats another is arbitrary and up to the students; as long as students are using the vocabulary words correctly in sentences, they can determine the winner for any reason. Determine which word in each part of speech was found to be the “winner” most frequently. All the students who picked the “winning” word are winners, too.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes as you see fit. You might consider hanging all the brackets up for students to compare and perhaps even have multiple winners in categories such as: most creative use of words, best illustrated bracket, best use of short sentences, best use of puns in sentences, etc. You might give all students who picked the winning word a prize or put their names on a big basketball in recognition.

Guess the Word

When to Play

Get students to think of synonyms with the Fun with Synonyms: Guess That Word Vocabulary Card Game. Designed for students in grades 3 through 12, it challenges them to know related words and use that knowledge in a guessing style game.

Materials Needed

All you need to play is a completed set of cards. Students will need to write synonyms on the cards before play begins.

Rules

Students will use a list of related words or synonyms to help his or her teammate guess the vocabulary word, without saying the word.

Who Wins

The student who gets the most words correct is the winner.

Reward Ideas

Award prizes as you see fit!

Conclusion

Vocabulary games don’t take the place of instruction and traditional opportunities to practice, but they allow students to have fun while practicing the words, recalling their definition and part of speech, connecting related words, and using them in context. These games allow students to interact with each other, play, and compete and maybe even win some recognition or prizes for their vocabulary prowess. No matter what, everybody wins better lexicons in the process! You can also try these additional games to support your students’ vocabulary development.

Additional Games

Take your 3rd through 12th grade students out to the ballgame with this baseball-inspired vocabulary game.

Engage students in a vocabulary spin-off similar to the popular Hasbro® Scattegories™ game.

Want to appeal to your digitally-savvy 4th through 12th grade students? Transport students to a world of words, gold coins, elixirs, armor, and more with this fun Video Game.

Get students up and sketching their vocabulary words for teammates with a hilarious drawing game similar to Hasbro® Pictionary™.

A classic memory game can reap academic rewards for students in Grades K through 8 and reinforce the connection between words and visuals.

Put vocabulary to use in a challenge that also includes creative writing skills as students write cohesive stories using their vocabulary words in grades 4 through 12.

Get students on their feet in a vocabulary version of Mother, May I? for students in grades 2 through 12.