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).

Student Pueblo Building Activity

My students completed a Pueblo building activity as a unit wrap-up for our study of the Native Americans in the Southwest. They used one centimeter grid paper to cut out a pattern that folded into a box shape. Students added a few details to the box, and then all the boxes were stacked together to resemble the adobe pueblo homes.

Student Pueblo Building Activity

Pueblo building homes were permanent dwellings made of adobe bricks. The multi-story structure was built around a central courtyard. The rooms were attached and resembled a modern day apartment building. Extended families would live in connected rooms, and as the community grew, new rooms could be added. People used ladders to get to roof top openings for access to rooms without doors or windows. Once we started stacking and connecting the student paper pueblo rooms, we were surprised how authentic the final product looked.

Student Pueblo Building Activity

Pueblo Activity Materials

  • cardstock paper (tan or light pink color looks more traditional, but white cardstock works too)
  • 1-cm grid paper template (many sites have free printable templates– do a quick Google search)
  • scissors
  • glue sticks and clear tape
  • skinny wooden sticks (collected from your backyard or playground)
  • hot glue gun
  • colored pencils or markers

Directions for Constructing a Pueblo Building

  • Copy at least one piece of grid paper per student on cardstock. I made copies of grid paper on regular copy paper and let students practice making boxes before giving them the cardstock paper.
  • Draw an outline shape of their box. I recommend measuring 6 boxes (centimeters) for the 4 walls. The part that will become the roof can be a variety of sizes. 6-10 centimeters work well for the roof. I shared THIS VIDEO with the students before letting them draw the pattern for their room.
  • Cut out the box pattern with the scissors. If students want to add any doors or windows, they should cut them out before folding and assembling the room. They should also add any color around the doors and windows before building.
  • Fold the edges where the paper will bend and crease firmly. If students do not press their creases and make the edges sharp, the rooms will not stack well together.
  • Fold together the box, add glue to the flaps, and press flaps to attach the walls together. If the flaps are not sticking well, add a small piece of clear tape to secure.

Student Pueblo Building Activity

Pueblo Building Embellishments

  • Some of my students added wooden roof beams using small sticks we collected. We unfolded a paper clip and carefully poked holes near the roof line on the front and back of the box. The holes should be across from each other. You can use the grid squares as guidelines. After holes are poked, we pushed sticks through the front of the building and out the coordinating hole in the back.
  • Students used hot glue to build ladders with small stick pieces. I put low temp hot glue guns on a big piece of butcher paper and added some small sized yard gloves with the hot glue guns. Students wear the gloves while using the hot glue to reduce the risk of burning fingers.
  • Make a few plain boxes to use as base pieces for stacking and creating the layers. Stack boxes side by side, to the back, and on top of each other to create the effect of an actual pueblo building. We leaned the ladders on the buildings at different levels to finalize the look.

Student Pueblo Building Activity

If you would like to extend this activity, there are options for math integration by calculating square footage of each building. Students can use the grid on the interior of the boxes to calculate the dimensions and area.

To purchase other supplemental materials for a study of peoples of the Southwest, CLICK HERE. To see all of my resources for Native people in North America, CLICK HERE.

Olmec Big Head Statue Activity

My 4th grade students recently completed an Olmec big head statue activity as part of our study of ancient civilizations in the Americas. I knew very little about the Olmec civilization before I started teaching it as part of my history curriculum, and students are typically not familiar with the group either. The Olmec settled in present day Mexico and were the predecessors to groups like the Maya and Aztec. They developed calendars, may have been the first to harvest the cacao bean, were wealthy traders, and carved giant head statues from basalt stone. To date, seventeen big head statues have been found along Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

Olmec Big Head Statues Activity

In order to help my students understand the concept of the large head statues, I planned a hands on activity that let them build their own model of a big head statue using air-dry clay and Play-Doh. We reviewed photographs of the real statues and noted details about the facial features, helmets, and carving techniques to try to duplicate some of the key traits. The students were really excited about the project and demonstrated much better recall of the Olmec civilization after completing the heads. The activity could be adapted to fit with a study of other cultures such as the Easter Island statues, Ancient Egyptian sculpture, or the Leshan Giant Buddha in China.

Big Head Statue Materials

  • air-dry clay
  • Play-Doh in bright colors
  • paper plates
  • sharp pencils, bent paper clips, toothpicks, or other pointy tools for carving details

Olmec Big Head Statues Activity

Big Head Statue Directions

  • Give each student about 1/2 pound of Air Dry clay. I have 18 students and bought two 5-lb buckets of clay. I divided each bucket of clay into 9 clay balls of roughly equal size.
  • Students put the ball of clay on a paper plate and molded the ball into a head shape.
  • Using a pencil or other pointy tool, they carved eyes, nose, mouths, etc. into the face. They also used their hands to pinch and form facial features.
  • After the basic design was finished, they took small amounts of colorful Play-doh and added details. According to researchers, the statues may have been painted with bright colors, so students used that detail from our readings to add to their statue design.

Olmec Big Head Statues Activity

In addition to the hands on activity with the clay, I added supplemental readings like THIS ONE to enhance our study of the Olmec people. We practiced finding topic, main idea, and details while completing the reading. To see more of my reading comprehension passages and procedure for correctly identifying topic, main idea, and details in reading passages, CLICK HERE.

Olmec Big Head Statues Activity