7 Easy Vocabulary Activities That Are Fun and Engaging

Explicit vocabulary instruction and opportunities to practice using words are crucial. Vocabulary instruction profoundly impacts students’ language proficiency and cognitive development. It is one of the indicators of strong reading comprehension. But often vocabulary does not get the attention it deserves! With these easy-to-implement- vocabulary activities, your students will get the practice necessary to become word experts!

Why Vocabulary Activities

The significance of vocabulary acquisition extends far beyond the mere memorization of words. Research shows that 17 is the optimum number of repetitions for vocabulary to transition to long-term memory. Having a plethora of activities you can choose from that are easy to implement will increase the amount of exposure to new vocabulary.

easy vocabulary activities 2nd 3rd 4th grade

Before Reading

Previewing vocabulary is such a powerful instructional strategy.

  • Stoplight Reflection: Before reading, sort vocabulary into green (known), yellow (familiar), and red (unknown) words in the “before” section. After reading and practicing the words, complete the “after” section.
  • In or Out: Make a list of vocabulary words and add in extra words. Before reading, students review the list of words and determine whether it might be vocabulary found in the book.
vocabulary activities preview

Small Group Vocabulary Activities

  • Fish Bowl: Select a set of vocabulary words and write each word on a small piece of paper. Mix them up in a hat or bowl. Split the class into two teams (sometimes we play as one team if they are typically too competitive). Choose a student to go first. They will try to act out as many vocabulary words as possible in one minute. For Round 1, the student may use words or gestures. Each correct word in one minute equals 1 point. Repeat for the second team. Repeat the same procedure for Round 2, except this time students may only act it out with NO talking. Finally, repeat the same procedure for Round 3, except the performer can only describe the vocabulary word using ONE word (no gestures). The team with the most points at the end wins!
  • The Definition Game: Split students into groups of 3-4 and assign each group a vocabulary word. Students create a list of words they might see in the definition of that word. (timing optional) When finished, they read the actual definition and check off words from their list. The team with the most correct words wins.
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Vocabulary Review Games

  • Vocabulary Bingo: Students write their vocabulary words on a blank bingo board. The teacher reads synonyms or definitions as students mark the correct words on their board. The player with 5 in a row first wins!
  • What’s My Word? game: Write vocabulary words on index cards (one for each student). Attach to students’ backs so they cannot see the word. Students ask each other “yes” and “no” questions only to try to discover which word is on their back.
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Making Vocabulary Stick

To make vocabulary instruction effective, it is important to use a variety of methods. Create opportunities for students to practice using vocabulary through speaking and writing. To encourage incorporating vocabulary into everyday conversations and recognizing vocabulary words while reading, Million Dollar Words is the perfect strategy.

  • Million Dollar Words: Display 6-8 content-related words. When a student uses one of the words in academic conversation or writing correctly, the class says “Cha-ching!”. Optional: the student writes their name on a poster displayed underneath the words.

Incorporating vocabulary activities beyond the ELA block is important. Use these activities for math, science, and social studies, too! For more teaching ideas, try out these blog posts next.

Looking for more vocabulary activities? Check out these 28 activities to use with any vocabulary list!

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