Vocabulary Review Game

Students would much prefer a vocabulary review game instead of being told to “go study your vocabulary words” by their teacher. Since I don’t like using the same review game every week, I always try to add a twist if I can. One review activity my students really enjoyed this year (before we switched to distance learning) was a spin on the Heads Up! game that Ellen DeGeneres introduced on her TV show. In my vocabulary version, students hold notecards with vocabulary words up to their foreheads. A partner describes the word using synonyms, definitions, or situations where the word would occur. Once a correct guess is made, students trade cards and move to a new partner. Since students are describing the word in a variety of ways, it helps learners relate to the word in different ways. The kids had much higher success recalling words after we played a few rounds of this review game.

Vocabulary Review Game

Vocabulary Game Directions

  1. Give students 3-5 notecards.
  2. Students write a single vocabulary word from your class list on the front of the notecard. My weekly list has about 12 words, so the student notecards will be a mix of the whole group of words.
  3. Students write the word’s definition on the back of the notecard. Or, they can write different situations where the word would be used. And finally, they can write any known roots or word parts and the matching meanings. In my class, our vocabulary curriculum is centered around classical roots, so I encourage the students to define the word parts.
  4. After each student has at least 3 completed cards, he/she begins to circulate around the room. The student finds a buddy and holds one card to his/her forehead. The partner begins describing the word. The first student identifies the word then lets the partner have a turn holding a card to the forehead. The pair takes turns until all cards have been used.
  5. Once a pair has used all the notecards, they trade a few cards with each other and move to new partners.
  6. By trading cards, the students do not continue to practice the exact same cards each time they trade partners. In addition, since students do not just write the definition on the back of the card, there will be different ways to explain the words to each new person they face.

Game Benefits

  1. The students describe words in multiple ways. They are encouraged to consider the context for each word, so it is not a memorization game. It is an application game too.
  2. If your vocabulary lists focus on a few common roots and/or prefixes, students are building a word bank of connected words. When they see unfamiliar words with known roots in their textbooks or reading books, they will be able to make a prediction about the definition and have stronger comprehension. For example, if a student knows a tripod is a stand with 3 feet, they could guess that a podiatrist is a person who does something with feet.
  3. The game builds in a movement break. Students are up walking around the room. Of course, with COVID restrictions my Heads Up! game is going to look a little different this year. I thought we might put on our face masks and play outside when we need a break from being strapped to our 6-feet-apart-desks.

Vocabulary Review Games

Other Review Game Ideas

  1. My students really like the website Memrise.com. I used this one a lot during distance learning. It’s an online flashcard type site. I have a free account and set up student accounts at the beginning of each year. The foreign language teachers at my school use the site too, so we have a standardized system for setting up the student usernames and passwords, so the account will move with the student year to year. To see a sample of one of my lessons for practicing individual roots, CLICK HERE (you need to have an account and be logged in to access).
  2. I like foldables too. My students make “fortune tellers” that we organize with our weekly roots and prefixes. To read more about how to build your own fortune tellers, CLICK HERE.
  3. If your students know many roots, prefixes, and suffixes, try this free WORD TRAINS printable activity.

 

CLICK HERE to see all of my vocabulary products for studying common prefixes, roots, and suffixes in my TeachersPayTeachers store. They even have links to a Google Slides digital option!

Roots vocabulary activities

 

Doodle Poster Group Activity

At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, my students began a giant doodle poster group activity in the back of my classroom. Since I teach United States geography, I chose a U.S. themed design. The students loved it. It took us the entire first semester to finish coloring the doodle poster, but it was worth it. It turned into a great early finisher activity, and it gave students the opportunity to work collaboratively. After we finished the first one, we needed a new poster. The new poster arrived just before COVID-19 hit, and our school transitioned to remote learning. I cut the second poster into pieces and mailed each student a piece turning the collaborative activity into a distance learning assignment. Students colored their pieces and mailed them back to me in a pre-stamped envelope I provided.

doodle poster group activity collaborative learning

The doodle poster group activity had more than one benefit. In the classroom, the students had to take turns. They needed to match how they wanted to color a section with portions that were already filled. They were allowed to color the poster any way they wanted, but we agreed that we needed to coordinate with designs that had been started by a classmate.

When the second poster turned into a distance learning assignment, the students had to work within the timeline I set. If they did not finish and mail the piece back to my house, the poster would not be complete. One person could prevent the whole group from finishing the task. As a group, we made decisions in a Zoom class about how to color each piece. We decided you could leave some white space, but in order for the reassembled poster to look finished, all key elements on each piece needed to be colored. A few students did not add very much new color, and people commented.

doodle poster group activity collaborative learning

Doodle Poster Tips

  • I searched Amazon for “giant doodle posters” and found many options. I wanted U.S. map posters to supplement my curriculum, and I ordered THIS ONE first. My second poster was by a company named OMY. I really liked these DEBBIE LYNN, INC posters, but they were too large for my wall space.
  • Measure the space where you will hang your doodle poster. I could not go much bigger than 32″ x 24″.
  • I used Command strips LIKE THESE to hang butcher paper on the wall and then attached the poster over the background paper. It kept markers from bleeding through to the wall and made the coloring surface a little smoother.
  • Set up guidelines with your students. We made decisions about time limits at the poster if other students were waiting to color. We agreed on color choices based on completed sections that were in the vicinity of where someone might be coloring. For the most part, students self-monitored the poster.

doodle poster group activity collaborative learning

It is fun to compare the two different posters between the in-class version and the remote learning version. I also liked the fact that the poster became an activity that kids were independently finishing at home but still maintaining a connection with the group. Another favorite class activity I considering adapting for distance learning is this AUTHOR LETTER activity. We ran out of time, so I will have to save it for next year’s class. Hopefully, we will be completing it in person!

doodle poster group activity collaborative learning

Distance Learning Reading Activity

I wasn’t sure distance learning and reading groups were going to work, but I recently tried a reading activity with my students that was a big hit. I sent students home with one of three reading group books before self-quarantine started due to COVID-19. I prepared three separate letters from the point of view of a key character in each book. Next, I stuffed envelopes with a book character letter, activity directions, and a pre-addressed stamped envelope for a return letter. Finally, I dropped the character letters in the mail.

point of view character letters

Within two days, students began emailing me to say their letter arrived! Forget the fact that this was a reading activity; students were so excited to get real actual mail addressed to them! It helped motivate them to write careful responses from the point of view of the main character in their reading group book.

Reading Activity Materials

  • Copies of character letters (enough for each student reading a book)
  • Class set of activity directions (enough for all students in your class)
  • 2 class sets of envelopes (one envelope to mail to your students, one envelop for the return letter)
  • 2 class sets of stamps (one stamp for outgoing letter, one stamp for pre-addressed letter for the reply)

point of view character letters

Character Letter Activity Directions

  • Prepare your letter from the point of view of a principal character in your reading group book. Add fun details that reflect character traits and setting from the story. For example, in my letter for the book, Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey, I added a sprinkle of fake snow to the envelope. The story takes place in Alaska, so I included the fake snow to represent the setting of the story. In my letter for Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, I added smudged fingerprints. Danny’s dad is a mechanic. The fingerprints reflect the dad’s job, and how his hands get greasy when he works.
  • Here are my SAMPLE LETTERS to help create your own version of a letter from a book character.
  • Write a page with directions about your expectations for the assignment. I used these LETTER WRITING DIRECTIONS.
  • Pre-address and pre-stamp envelopes with the address where you want the return letters to go. I used my home address since we are in quarantine due to COVID-19.
  • Stuff each envelope with directions, one character letter, and a pre-addressed/stamped letter and seal closed.
  • Address and mail to each student.

Alternate Letter Ideas

  • If your students don’t have book group books, mail directions with a pre-addressed envelope and ask students to mail back a reply from the point of view of a book character in any book they are reading.
  • Depending on the activities of your students while in quarantine, ask them to mail you a favorite recipe with specific directions (procedural writing) or a letter about an activity at their house (descriptive writing), or a letter explaining why/why not social distancing is important (persuasive writing).
  • Include stamped postcards to save on the cost of postage or handle it all through email. Email can be a good option if you are worried about the spread of COVID through regular mail.

point of view character letters

To purchase low prep novel units for my three reading group books, click HERE, HERE, and HERE. To see another fun reading activity that thinks about point of view, CLICK HERE to read about a through the keyhole setting activity.

As classrooms across the country adjust to distance learning, teachers are scrambling to adapt their curriculum to an online format. It is not realistic to expect the same content or type of instruction in the distance learning class, but parents can expect innovative teaching ideas as teachers try new ways to activate student knowledge from afar. This reading activity is one way to assess reading comprehension, writing skills, and even keyboarding or handwriting skills. It also has real world application since it involves using proper letter format. Finally, if you are looking for an outside activity during quarantine, this might offer an opportunity to walk to your local mailbox (or at least to the end of the driveway).

Holiday Gift Tags

My students will be debuting holiday gift tags this year at our annual December market. They work throughout the Fall choosing a business name, designing a logo, and staying after school at workshops to produce a handful of holiday gift items. We have some favorite items like SIMMERING SPICES and LAYERED COOKIE MIXES that our repeat customers expect, but we also try to mix in new products each year too. This year, the new product is handmade paper gift tags.

DIY holiday gift tags

To make the holiday gift tags, we used white paper marking tags with a reinforced hole. I was able to buy a box of 500 at Staples. However, there are many options for gift tags. I found packs of twelve at Michael’s Crafts in different paper options, and I know there are large and small sizes. Once you have the tags, you can add a variety of embellishments. We used fine black pens and rulers, rubber stamps, buttons, washi tape, fancy hole punches, and a little creativity.

DIY holiday gift tags

Holiday Gift Tag Materials

  • 4 3/4″ x 2 3/8″ white marking tags with reinforced holes (any paper gift tag would work– you could even cut your own)
  • fine tip black pen
  • ruler
  • Elmer’s glue
  • buttons
  • washi tape or ribbon
  • rubber stamps
  • ink pads
  • fun shaped hole punches
  • any other embellishments– sequins, mini flowers, round gems…

DIY holiday gift tags

 

Holiday Gift Tag Ideas

  • Ornaments– With the ruler and black pen, make 3 parallel lines. Near the end of the drawn line, draw a bow by making a flower petal shape on each side of the lines. At the end of each black line, glue a button. Stamp a holiday message if you would like.
  • Snowman– Draw a short, wavy line near the bottom edge of the gift tag. Place two buttons, one on top of the other, on the wavy line to act as place holders. Draw two stick arms and a simple top hat (rectangle with line). Glue the buttons to the card in the appropriate spots to fit the arms and hat. Stamp a holiday message in the white space if you would like.
  • Decorative Strips– Using washi tape or ribbon and glue, place 2-3 strips along an edge of the tag. Stamp a holiday message or glue additional sequins, buttons, or small flowers in a decorative way.
  • Punched Shapes– Punch out fun shapes and glue small shapes to the gift tag. Another option is to make a band of washi tape and hole punch shapes in the washi taped section of the card. Remove the shapes from the puncher and glue them randomly around the card. Stamp a holiday message to finish.

DIY holiday gift tags

We are putting an assortment of 5 gift tags in bags to sell at our holiday market. They make a sweet little gift for a neighbor or co-worker or even a hostess gift at Christmas. They are also fun to attach to your own presents that you will be wrapping this holiday season!

DIY holiday gift tags

Holiday Simmering Spices

Holiday Simmering Spices are the perfect low prep gift to give friends this Christmas season. I used to throw an annual cookie exchange and would put together a little party favor for the guests. One year I gave each friend a bag containing the “Essence of Christmas”. This is something my mom always had simmering on the stovetop at our house during the holiday season; it makes your whole house smell like Christmas.

simmering spices

It is easy to make in big batches, and if you are already in cocoa kit or rosemary nut production, you should have a large supply of clear bags and labels– perfect for packaging these goodies. Share with neighbors, teachers, co-workers, or bring as a hostess gift to parties.

Simmering Spice Ingredients

  • 1 t. cloves
  • 4-5 juniper berries (can be hard to find, Whole Foods usually has these with the bulk spices from Thanksgiving to Christmas)
  • 1 whole orange (OPTIONAL, navel oranges– cannot use clementines or tangerines)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks

simmering spices

Label Directions

  • Slice orange and add slices with spices to a pot with 4-5 cups of water. Simmer on the stove to emit a wonderful Christmas fragrance. Refill water as necessary.

Simmering Spice Notes

  • You can make bags with our without the orange. The bags last almost forever if you do not include the fresh orange.
  • CLICK HERE to download a sheet of printable labels. Print on cardstock and cut apart to make nice tags to attach to the simmering spice bags.

simmering spices