Lesson Plan: Vocabulary Games for Teachers

Vocabulary Games for Teachers

No student wants to memorize definitions. Instead, reinforce vocabulary words with these fun games.

ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Here are some common core standards that apply.

  • L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  • L.9-10.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies. Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or text; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
  • L.9-10.4c Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning, its part of speech, or its etymology.

Favorite Teaching Vocabulary Games

Make your vocabulary lesson fun with these classics.


Kinesthetic learners (those kids who need constant entertainment) love this vocabulary activity. Not only will they actually learn new words, they’ll entertain and teach the entire class. For this activity, make sure there are enough words to discourage random guessing. It works best for large unit, semester, and final exam reviews. It’s also perfect for a class needing to get the wiggles out and for teachers tired of talking to sleeping teenagers. In case you don’t know, charades requires acting out the word. I prefer showing a few examples. Kids love it, especially if you injure yourself acting out apoplectic.


While we’re in the mood for games played at parties that you want to leave right away, let’s play some Pictionary. Instead of acting out words, draw the word on the board. That really quiet kid who turns in half-written essays will perk up when given the chance to utilize his creative talents. Who knows? Maybe he’ll finish his next essay. This can be played in teams or as one massive “shout the word out whenever you think you know it” game.


Technically this is more a word game than a vocabulary game, but if you want absolute silence for three minutes, break out the Boggle (you can pick one up at a second-hand store for a buck). Shake the letters up and copy them on the board. Students can go head to head, in groups of four, or in one big free for all. This activity works especially well for students who struggle spelling basic words. Be careful: it’s addicting (especially for nerdy English teachers who want to make themselves feel better by crushing children at word games).


Put students in groups of 4 or 5. Give them a 3 x 5 card with a specific situation, for example: “you got home late,” “your girlfriend caught you with another girl at a party,” “you just won an important football game,” or “you just soiled yourself trying to solve a math problem.” Give them 20 minutes to create a skit effectively utilizing a predetermined number of vocabulary words. You can make it a competition or a film festival with academy awards and popcorn. The grade is based on effective use of words, entertainment value, voice clarity, and individual participation.

Teaching Vocabulary

If they don’t learn it, you’ve wasted your time. These vocabulary teaching strategies will help.
Effective Vocabulary Strategies
Teaching Greek and Latin Roots
Games for Teaching Vocabulary

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