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 Game Directions
- Give students 3-5 notecards.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once a pair has used all the notecards, they trade a few cards with each other and move to new partners.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Other Review Game Ideas
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!