Friday, September 26, 2014

3 Ways to Make Vocabulary Instruction Fun

"Are we playing vocab games today?"
"Hey, can we do vocab today?"

"We're doing vocab!  Yes!"

I love hearing these comments and questions shouted back and forth as my teen-aged students trickle through my classroom door.  In a texting age in which numbers stand for words and one letter can substitute for an entire sentence ("k?"), vocabulary instruction matters now more than ever.  Years ago, I had wonderful high-school English teachers who made class fun with games and activities that we teenagers couldn't resist.  When I finally had my own classroom and my own English classes, I knew that I would do whatever it took to make the English language -- and especially its vocabulary -- even more fun to learn for today's teenagers.  

Here are some of my teens' favorite vocabulary review games:

1.  Vocabulary Charades

My students and I get a lot of laughs with this fun and hilarious game.  Typically, I split up my class into two teams, and each team takes a turn sending up one contestant.  I give the contestant a vocabulary word from our most recent list, and then I set the timer for 30 seconds.  Believe me, when a class sees their friend jumping around on one foot with a box of tissues on her head, they won't forget the anomaly for quite some time!

2.  Slap the Bucket

For classrooms with a high kinesthic-learner rate, this game is almost necessary!  I take my class to they gym (or outside if the weather is irresistible) and have my kids line up around the half-court lines.  I plop a bucket in the middle of the floor and call out a definition from our most recent vocabulary list.  Whoever can run to the bucket, slap it, and yell out the correct word first wins a point for his team!  This game may not explore the words in their context, but a little healthy repetition goes a long way if it's paired with other quality activities.  Even my most distracted students stay focused when I give them this athletic outlet!

3.  Vocab Pictionary

My visual learners love expressing their vocabulary words with pictures.  I often assign vocabulary cartoons, vocabulary posters, and other fun projects of the like, but Vocab Pictionary carries extra intensity for those with a competitive streak.  Again I split the class into two teams and allow the teams to take turns sending up a contestant.  The team gets 30 seconds to guess the vocab word behind its contestant's picture, and again the results leave a lasting impression.

After implementing these and many other vocabulary activities in my classroom, I was pleased, amazed, and impressed to discover that my students' vocabulary-quiz grades almost always averaged higher than 90% as a class.  I certainly can't take credit for their intelligence and creativity, but I do like to think that someday as they sit in their college dorm room, trying to find that perfect word for their impending term paper, they will remember that kid jumping up and down with the tissue box -- and smile.

Find More of My Vocab Games Here!

Vocabulary Games
Make the dictionary come alive with fun for every learning style!