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English Language Arts Blog

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

March 27, 2019 VG Vocabulary Games 6-12, VG Vocabulary Games K-5, Vocab Gal, ELA K-5, ELA 6-8, ELA 9-12, ELA Resources - Games, ELA Focus - Vocabulary

Oranges to Oranges Vocabulary Game, Grades 4–12

Based upon the popular game, Apples to Apples™ from Mattel®[1], my version, Oranges to Oranges Vocabulary Game, puts a twist on the game using your weekly vocabulary words. Download my most popular vocabulary game now! With Oranges to Oranges Vocabulary Game students learn together and from each other and don’t even realize it.


I love party games. When I had the epiphany that my students and I could play one of my favorite party games with our vocabulary words, I realized I now had a legitimate edu-tainment to play on “those days”-the day after the AP test, the shortened period where one class has an hour and another class has 30 minutes, the day first period is extended by 20 minutes and the students get too restless to concentrate.

Having been playing Oranges to Oranges Vocabulary Game for the last few years now, I and my students have come to enjoy (and learn from!) the anomalous days we break out the cards, and I find that even the recalcitrant students end up with a grin on their faces.


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How to Play Oranges to Oranges Vocabulary Game

For those not familiar with this board-game-without-a-board, here's how Apples to Apples is traditionally played.

  1. Five to seven players are dealt five red cards that are all nouns. Examples could include:  “Airline Food”, Watching Football”, “Choir Boys” “Bald Eagles” and “The NRA”.  A pile of green adjective cards is then placed in the middle face down.

  2. The first player, or starter, pulls a green card from the adjectives deck, which may contain a word such as  “Unforgettable,” along with its synonyms written underneath, like “notable, impressive and remarkable.” Every other player must then decide which of his/her red cards the starter would mostly likely consider “Unforgettable" and gives to the starter, face down. 

  3. Once the starter[2] receives a red card from everyone, he or she shuffles them to retain players’ anonymity, turns them over, reads them aloud, and chooses a winner based on what he or she thinks best describes the adjective on his/her green card.

  4. The winner gets to hold on to the green card and the player to the left of the starter selects a new green card (perhaps “Cheerful”). 

  5. Again, the other players decide which red card the new player would most likely consider “cheerful”.  The game continues until one person earns seven green cards[3].

Putting Your Own Vocabulary Twist into the Game

To add a vocabulary twist for your students, make the green adjective cards our vocabulary words[4].  Have students make them using index cards, cardstock, or use the template available for download. Tell students to write out the word in BOLD, then write the synonyms underneath in smaller, but still easy to read, lettering.

When completed, substitute your green vocabulary cards for the ones in your purchased or borrowed box of Mattel's Apples to Apples and start to play.

Teacher Tips and Tricks for Playing

Divide your room into groups of five, so the game moves quickly and students maintain focus. For the one student who just refuses to play/engage with other students, ask that he or she watch one group and write down his/her own choices for which noun best works with each adjective (or does he or she agree or disagree with each round’s choice?).

You can dictate how many cards one needs to “win” depending on your time constraints, and award “prizes” as you see fit.

As you walk around (or insert yourself into a game), you will hear laughter, groans, cheering and a general cacophony of happy players.  My favorite moment is when someone flips over a new green card and says “I don’t know what that word means” and another teammate looks at it and says “Really? That one means…”.

The words used on the example green adjective cards, available for download, are taken from Sadlier's Vocabulary Workshop, Levels A-H (Grades 6–12+). The last card template is blank for you to create your own set of green cards! To learn more about Vocabulary Workshop visit: www.Sadlier.com/previewVWEE





[1] Mattel® and Apples to Apples™ are registered trademarks of Mattel, Inc.

[2] Who does not get to play a red card, FYI.

[3] There are variations to these rules in the Apples to Apples instructions. Students and teachers are free to play in different ways- you choose which way you like to play! 

[4] Note: you will only want to use the adjectives in your vocabulary list for the green cards; you could inserts the nouns into the red cards if you want.