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Teaching Vocabulary: Activities For Kids

Teaching vocabulary can be tough, but there are many activities kids can use on their own to help strengthen their vocabulary skills.

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Vocabulary (student definition): The dreaded process of “memorizing” words and hoping you can regurgitate them on the test. Vocabulary (teacher definition): The incredibly important, although sometimes hair pulling, set of words students need to know to understand information.

Vocabulary (teacher definition): The incredibly important, although sometimes hair pulling, set of words students need to know to understand information. Click To Tweet
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Step 1 Vocabulary Discovery

The first step of learning vocabulary is word discovery. There are three ways students can discover words:


When vocabulary words are discovered by a teacher, they are words the teacher has identified as important to understand a text. This can be effective and it’s always reassuring to know students are learning words they may run into again.


Vocabulary words that are discovered by the text are words that are usually in bold within the text book. This is an effective way to choose vocabulary words because the authors usually know what they are talking about.

It can be a good idea to combine teacher-discovered words and text-discovered words to make sure all the words are necessary or the text isn’t missing any words.


When the student-discovery method is used, students read through a selected text during a close reading exercise and highlight unknown words as they read. When students do this, they are figuring out what words they need to know to understand the text and taking ownership of their learning.

Once you have determined how students are going to discover vocabulary words (any of the above methods can be combined for maximum vocabulary mastery) make sure you give or have students find the correct definitions for the vocabulary words. Then, you can start creating fun vocabulary activities.

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Step 2-Creating Vocabulary Activities

One of the frustrating parts of teaching vocabulary is getting students to study the words and truly learn them instead of just memorizing them. The best way to turn teaching vocabulary from a drag to a fun time is a fun vocabulary activity.


A great tool to use is MobyMax. This free online application helps students learn and use vocabulary words through the lather-rinse-repeat method.

In other words, MobyMax asks students to match words with the correct definition, use it in a sentence, and identify its correct usage in a picture. Then they review the word in a variety of ways to help them retain the word well past the test.

Vocabulary Matching

If technology isn’t something you have access to in your classroom, you can also use a vocabulary matching game to help students practice vocabulary with their friends.

While creating a vocabulary matching game can be initially a little time consuming (about an hour for 5 sets not including laminating) it is very effective when learning the definitions of words.

To create a vocabulary matching set follow the directions below:
Create a 2x (however many vocabulary words you have) table on your favorite word processing software. Then put the word and the definition side by side (see the sample below).

This template was made in Keynote for iOS
  • Print out however many copies you need.
  • Glue the sheets of paper to card stock or construction paper.
  • Cut out the individual squares.
  • To make this a one-time project, laminate the matching pieces.

Once you created the vocabulary matching game, you can have a station for vocabulary and students can play the match game in groups or 2 or more. I would recommend not exceeding four to a group.

Whoever gets the most matches is the vocabulary master of the group. If you want, students can earn a badge.

Not only will this game help with vocabulary comprehension, it will also promote collaborative learning amongst your students.

Flash Cards

Another option for helping students understand the basic definition of the vocabulary words is through the use of flashcards. You can create your flashcards by simply changing the size of the vocabulary word chart you made for the matching game.

There are many vocabulary activities that you can do with the vocabulary flash cards including:

  • Around the World
  • Go Fish
  • Matching (the pieces would just be larger)
  • Silent Study

Using any of the vocabulary activities above will help with teaching vocabulary definitions. When your students are ready for a higher level of learning, you can pass out the flash cards and have students complete a vocabulary four square.

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Vocabulary Four Square

Teaching vocabulary can be hard but when you use vocabulary four square worksheets it can help “hit” several learning areas. What is a vocabulary four square worksheet? Simple. It’s a 2×2 table that has students complete four vocabulary activities.

  • First Square: Students write down the vocabulary word.
  • Second Square: Students write down the definition of the word.
  • Third Square: Draw a picture that illustrates the vocabulary word.
  • Fourth Square: Students write a sentence using the vocabulary word.

This vocabulary activity is great for teaching all parts of the vocabulary word from its basic definition to the usage of it.

Vocabulary Bingo

The final vocabulary activity I will talk about today is Vocabulary Bingo. This will only work if you have 24 vocabulary words. I like to bring in past vocabulary words to ensure students are not just forgetting them after the test. You can use a free bingo card generator and put in your words. On the website, you put your own words in and then print off as many bingo cards as you need.

When you play the game, you read the definition of the word and students cover it up if they have it. You can play several different bingo games such as:

  • Regular Bingo (4-corners count)
  • Bingo No Free Space
  • Postage Stamp
  • Six Pack
  • T
  • X
  • Blackout

Vocabulary Wrap Up

Teaching vocabulary can be difficult. If we use vocabulary strategies that are fun, students will take the challenge in stride and enjoy learning new words through the various vocabulary practices discussed above. While not everything has to be a game, using the “drill and kill” method isn’t always best.

The best way to turn the definition of vocabulary from “The dreaded process of “memorizing” words and hoping you can regurgitate them on the test,” to “A fun activity!” is through using vocabulary activities that your students can have fun and learn with.

Do you have a favorite activity for teaching and reviewing vocabulary? Share your ideas below so other teachers can try them out!

Until Next Time Rockstars,

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