Vocabulary Games!

Expanding vocabulary is very often at the core of what happens in a classroom.  These games provide opportunities to explore, share and interpret new words.  The interactive, verbal and visual nature of these games make them great fun for every kid in the class, and perfect for kids that might be struggling with reading or language acquisition.  

**Press BLUE names to go to full page description of the game!**

Games for Vocab Lists:

The following are games that require a fixed list of words. Teachers can take these words from “word walls,” specific lessons or from books the class is reading. They have the HUGE advantage of being verbal, repetitive and interactive.

Sound and Action Pass:

This game starts out as a silly warm-up, but can quickly turn into a way to learn or review several words! Students start in a circle, come up with physical interpretations of words, and pass them around the room. It is a great way to preview vocabulary before reading a challenging text.

Vocabulary 1-2-3

Students create their own physical interpretations of a word, and then teach each other in pairs. They then take ownership of their partners word and teach that word to the next person they are paired with. As a result they are able to teach several words to each other.

Tableaus or Human Statues:

Groups of students physically interpret rich vocabulary and concepts.  It is a great way to inspire thought and discussion about a limited number of words.

Story Line:

There is one version of the Story Line game where each player is given a word and then must use that word in the story.  Using vocabulary words is a great way to get students to use the new words in unexpected ways!

The Answer is…What is the Question?

Not a game with a ton of movement, but groups of students will think VERY deeply about a word or a concept.

Playing With Words:

Fluency depends on word play. These are games where students play with and interact with words in a general way. Sometimes they come up with words on their own, other times they have to guess or work with words others choose. What makes these games different from the ones above is that the player decide what words are going to be used, not the teacher. They are a great way for kids to practice and demonstrate the skills they already have, but it will not help with that list of words from the science lab.

I’m Thinking of a Word:

This is a fun game where kids are playing with words. Students guess rhyming words by stating the definition. A great game for a long car ride or in a circle of students.

Human Dictionary

The audience comes up with a nonsense word, and a line of players must come up with a definition one word at a time. Great fun to play and watch, while they play with parts of speech and the structure of words and definitions.


This is a spelling game. Students sit in a circle and add one letter to a word as it goes around. The trick is to avoid being the person to complete the word.

In or Out

This is a circle game where one student thinks of a category or general word, and the players in the circle say a word in turn, and the leader responds by indicating if that word is connected to that category or not.

Spell It!

Great for large groups! This game is a “mixer,” which means that it allows kids to mill around the room and interact with anyone. Each player gets a letter, and must work together to make words of various lengths.

Teakettle, or “Homonyms”

A player leaves the room and comes back, players in the circle give clues to a secret word by using it in a sentence, but replacing the word with the word “teakettle”. Great way to explore words with multiple meanings!