20 Meaningful Vocabulary Activities for Every Grade
Learning new words is like adding to your writing wardrobe. Your writing becomes so much more interesting and engaging when you have more options available. These vocabulary activities work for all ages, K-12, and provide kids with a variety of learning options to help them build their own word bank.
1. Make a word map
Word maps help deepen understanding of a vocab word by relating it to other words and concepts students already know.
Learn more: Word Map/Upper Elementary Snapshots
2. Use the Frayer Model
Frayer models are a popular way to learn new words and concepts. Kids define the word in their own terms, then list facts and characteristics, examples, and non-examples.
Learn more: Southern Fried Teachin’
3. Draw vocabulary sketchnotes
Kids and teachers love sketchnotes! Rather than writing out definitions, have students draw a sketch that sums up each word instead. It’s a lot more fun and gives kids an image for visual association and to help remember the meanings.
Learn more: Now Spark Creativity
4. Bump words along
Group vocab words together with a few other words with similar meanings and one that’s an antonym. Students identify the antonym and “bump” it to the next box, filling in the next group of words. They continue until the worksheet is full.
Learn more: Reading and Writing Haven
5. Post a Graffiti Wall
Think of a vocabulary graffiti wall like a collaborative word wall. In the classroom, post the words on the wall and have kids add sticky notes to illustrate the term (they can use words or pictures). Online, try a tool like Padlet or Google Slides.
Learn more: Digging Deeper
6. Match words to describe character
This is a terrific way to practice vocab words pulled from books you’re reading. Ask students to use various words to describe the different characters in the book and their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
Learn more: The Sassy Apple
7. Fill in words from A to Z
This vocabulary game is fun and challenging, and you can play it at any age. Choose a word, then challenge kids to come up with related words for as many letters as possible. These could be synonyms, antonyms, examples, and more. Trickier letters are worth more points!
Learn more: A to Z/Lit in Focus
8. Try Flipgrid for vocabulary activities
Are you on the Flipgrid bandwagon yet? It’s perfect for vocabulary activities! Have kids record a quick video for each word, using their creativity to make it fun and meaningful.
9. Battle it out in Vocabulary Jeopardy
Good vocabulary activities encourage more than just memorization of definitions. That’s why we like this Jeopardy game idea. It explores synonyms and antonyms and how words are used in real sentences.
Learn more: Not So Wimpy Teacher
10. Use RAFTs to write vocabulary stories
Writing a story using vocab words is a perennial favorite, but the RAFT method gives it a new twist. Students are assigned a Role (the point of view from which they’ll tell the story), an Audience, a Format, and a Topic. For instance, they might be an astronaut (Role) writing a postcard (Format) to their friends back home (Audience) about what they’ve seen on Mars (Topic). RAFTs are especially great for kids who claim they don’t know what to write about.
Learn more: RAFT/Teaching Writing
11. Discover the power of words
Vocabulary words take on greater meaning when students incorporate them into their daily lives. Challenge kids to use their vocab words in conversation and writing outside the language arts classroom. Use the free printable worksheet here to help them keep track of how often they use them.
12. Create graphic organizers
Colorful organizers like these are terrific vocabulary activities. Want to go digital? Have kids make a slideshow, one slide per word. They can include the same information, but instead of drawing a picture, have them find one online that illustrates the concept.
Learn more: Graphic Organizers/Upper Elementary Snapshots
13. Focus on a Word of the Week
Give really important terms the attention they deserve. Choose a new vocab word each week, then explore it in depth day by day.
Learn more: Lit In Focus
14. Join the Million Dollar Word Club
Post a list of target vocab words. If a student uses one of the words in class (outside of vocabulary activities), they become a member of the Million Dollar Word Club! You can have them sign their name on a wall in the classroom or award a badge online. You could even develop this into a reward system for homework passes or extra credit.
Learn more: Million Dollar Words/The Sassy Apple
15. Explore shades of meaning
This is a cool idea for exploring synonyms and the slight differences that make words unique. Ask for paint sample strips at your local hardware store, or buy a clip art set. In the classroom, use these paint strips to make crafts for a bulletin board. Working in a virtual environment? Have kids print clip art strips at home or use the images to make slides or digital worksheets.
Learn more: Around the Kampfire
16. Personify a word with social media
This is one of those vocabulary activities kids will want to do over and over again! Assign each student a word and have them create a fake Facebook, Instagram, or other social media page for it. They can draw them freehand or complete a template like these from Teachers Pay Teachers. Post the images to a shared Google slideshow so other students can use them for review.
Learn more: Reading and Writing Haven
17. Play vocabulary word Taboo
In this game, the goal is for one student to get their partner to guess the word by describing or giving examples of it. The trick? There’s a list of additional words they’re not allowed to use! Let other students see the card in advance to help keep the players honest. (Flash it on a whiteboard and have the guesser face away.)
Learn more: Teaching Talking
18. Roll a die for vocabulary activities
Choose a vocab word, then have the student roll a die (these virtual dice are handy) to see which activity they get to complete.
Learn more: Roll a Word/Lucky Little Learners
19. Write an acrostic
Write an acrostic poem for each vocab term, using the letters to determine the first word in each line. This can get really challenging when words are longer!
Learn more: Vocab Acrostic/Upper Elementary Snapshots
20. Become a Word Collector
This is one of those picture books that grown-up kids will enjoy as much as little ones. Use it to remind your kids that they don’t need a vocabulary list to learn new words—new words are all around them. Encourage them to keep a word list or journal of their own to record new words they want to explore and use more often.
Looking for more language arts ideas? Try these 11 Essential Tips for Teaching Theme.
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