Making Learning Vocabulary Fun for Students

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Step 1

Assign a word to each student. Write each word on a file card or other slip of paper to give to each student. This is important because if it is done orally, the student is likely to misspell the word. These words should be part of the content area curriculum, or part of a story you are reading so that they are more meaningful to the students. Use your social studies or science texts to find words, or use words from a book that is being read or a famous speech.

Step 2

Each student looks up the word in the dictionary and writes the definition. For students older than 3rd grade, you can also have students make sure they are defining the word in the proper context by looking back at the speech or book or whatever you are using You can also have students write a sentence for the word, if you desire. Students can write their answers right on the card that you gave them with the word on it.

Step 3

Collect the slips of paper from the students.

Step 4

At the teacher’s planning time, he/she should look over the definitions to make sure they are correct. If a student has chosen not to complete the work, they will very simply NOT participate in the activity until they have a word to contribute. Words can easily be added in after the fact.

Step 5

The teacher then creates a word (or other word processing) document and makes up a slip of paper for each word. The first slip of paper should say, for example, at the top: “I am . . . . vast. The Pacific Ocean is quite vast”

Step 6

At the bottom of the same slip of paper, you want to put a definition for DIFFERENT one of the chosen words. Let’s say the second word is “curvaceous”. You would write the definition for this word below the example sentence for “vast”.

Step 7

Continue making a slip of paper like this for each word, with a DIFFERENT word’s definition written at the bottom.

Step 8

How to play: The first time you play, students will be confused and won’t know many of the words. Don’t worry! This will change after just a few play sessions. Line up your students in a row at the front of the room. Give each student one of the slips of paper you created. It does not have to be the word that they looked up previously.

Step 9

Students that didn’t look up a word simply don’t get one of the cards and stay in their seat.

Step 10

Pick one student to start: They read the “I am” portion of their slip of paper (the top only). Once they have read it, the student that thinks that they have the definition for the word written on the bottom of their card steps forward and reads the definition.

Step 11

If they are correct, the same student then reads the “I am” statement at the top of their own card and play continues until every student has stepped forward.

Step 12

If a student matches the wrong definition with a word, just tell them that’s incorrect and have them step back into the line. Another student will step forward to read the correct definition. You can give them a hint if needed, by providing another sentence, or by reading the original context of the word from the book/speech or what have you.

Step 13

The second time you play will go much faster and many more students will know the definitions for the words. For the second time you play, don’t worry about giving students the same card they had before, keep it random and mix it up so that they can learn ALL the words in the activity.

Step 14

Add more words, different words, or more students to the game ANY time. You can even schedule “I am” time right into your schedule and do it daily for any of the content areas. Even mix up the cards for different content areas and have them re-appear randomly throughout the year to ensure that the students get appropriate review.


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