February 25, 2024

Beauty Arts

The Arts Authority

30 Meaningful Vocabulary Activities for Every Grade

30 Meaningful Vocabulary Activities for Every Grade

Learning new words is like adding to your writing toolbox. Your writing becomes so much more interesting and engaging when you have more tools available. Check out these fun and engaging vocabulary activities for kids in grades K-12, and give your students the equipment they need to build their wordsmith skills.

1. Write vocabulary short stories

a clipboard with a vocabulary short story written on it

Using vocabulary words in writing shows mastery. Challenge your students to use all of their vocabulary words in an original short story. Allow students to pair up and share their stories with a partner.

Learn more: Lucky Little Learners 

2. Put your students in the “hot seat”

Divide your class into two teams. Choose one student from one team to go to the front of the room and sit in a chair facing the class with his/her back to the board. This person is “on the spot.” Place a word on the board so everyone can see it except the person in the chair. One at a time, team members give the person a clue about the mystery word. If the word is guessed before two minutes are up, the team gets a point and play turns to the other team.

Learn more: On the Spot/Upper Elementary Snapshots

3. Match up words and definitions

a vocabulary activity set featuring vocabulary words and definitions

Download these vocabulary words and matching definitions. Distribute one card to each student (either a word or a definition). Allow students to circulate in the room and find their “match.” Switch cards and repeat.

Learn more: Teach Starter

4. Sketch up some word maps

a word map made up around the word cowboys

Creating word maps from vocabulary words encourages students to find the relationships between the vocabulary word and other words. Have them include words, pictures, examples, real-world connections, definitions, descriptive words, etc.

Learn more: Southern Fried Teachin’

5. Create Post-it stations

a small clipboard with a purple post-it note attached on top of a floral backdrop

Post vocabulary words around the room, then have students circulate and write an original sentence using that word on a sticky note. Follow along and make sure students use the words correctly.

Learn more: Now Spark Creativity

6. Play a game of Pop!

a hand pulling a car with an illustration of popcorn and the word pop! out of a red and white striped bag

Write vocabulary words on cards or craft sticks and place in a paper bag. Write the word Pop! on three to five cards or sticks and add them to the bag as well. To play, students will take turns drawing cards or sticks out of the bag, reading the word and giving the definition. If they correctly define the word, they keep the card or stick. If not, it goes back in the bag. If they pull the word Pop! they must return all their cards or sticks to the bag and start over. The player with the most cards or sticks wins.

Learn more: Pop/Not So Wimpy Teacher

7. Take a gallery walk

Hang six to eight large sheets of chart paper in various places around the room. On each sheet, write one vocabulary word. Have students work in small groups, rotating between stations. At each station, ask students to come up with a different, original way to use each word. Continue the activity until all students have visited every station.

Learn more: Teachwriting.org

8. Create vocabulary strips

an index card vocabulary activity

Have students draw a diagonal line across an index card. On the top half, have them write the vocabulary word and definition. On the bottom half, have them draw a picture of the word and use it in a sentence. Cards can be joined together in a strip for easy review.

Learn more: Teaching Fourth

9. Play a round of Pictionary

a Pictionary vocabulary worksheet

This fun activity requires students to draw a picture for each word to create their own visual dictionary. When students create their own visual representations, they develop an association with the word that they will be able to tap into when needed.

Learn more: Pictionary/Lit in Focus

10. Make a word map

Word map for the word Respect (Vocabulary Activities)

Word maps help deepen understanding of a vocab word by relating it to other words and concepts students already know.

Learn more: Word Map/Upper Elementary Snapshots

11. Use the Frayer model

Frayer Model for the word Noun

Frayer models are a popular way to learn new words and concepts. Kids define the word in their own terms, then list facts and characteristics, examples, and non-examples.

Learn more: Southern Fried Teachin’

12. Draw vocabulary Sketchnotes

Vocabulary sketchnotes for words like prohibit and reproach (Vocabulary Activities)

Kids and teachers love Sketchnotes! Rather than writing out definitions, have students draw a sketch that sums up each word instead. It’s a lot more fun and gives kids an image for visual association and to help remember the meanings.

Learn more: Now Spark Creativity

13. Bump words along

Printable vocabulary worksheet for Bumper Words game (Vocabulary Activities)

Group vocab words together with a few other words with similar meanings and one that’s an antonym. Students identify the antonym and “bump” it to the next box, filling in the next group of words. They continue until the worksheet is full.

Learn more: Reading and Writing Haven

14. Post a graffiti wall

Graffiti wall for the vocabulary word "tremble" created using Padlet

Think of a vocabulary graffiti wall like a collaborative word wall. In the classroom, post the words on the wall and have kids add sticky notes to illustrate the term (they can use words or pictures). Online, try a tool like Padlet or Google Slides.

Learn more: Digging Deeper

15. Match words to describe character

Character Match printable worksheet showing a drawing of a person with matching vocabulary words

This is a terrific way to practice vocab words pulled from books you’re reading. Ask students to use various words to describe the different characters in the book and their feelings, thoughts, and actions.

Learn more: The Sassy Apple

16. Fill in words from A to Z

Printable A to Z vocabulary word game worksheet

This vocabulary game is fun and challenging, and you can play it at any age. Choose a word, then challenge kids to come up with related words for as many letters as possible. These could be synonyms, antonyms, examples, and more. Trickier letters are worth more points!

Learn more: A to Z/Lit in Focus

17. Try Flip for vocabulary activities

Are you on the Flip (formerly Flipgrid) bandwagon yet? It’s perfect for vocabulary activities! Have kids record a quick video for each word, using their creativity to make it fun and meaningful.

18. Battle it out in Vocabulary Jeopardy

Vocabulary Jeopardy game with categories like synonym and antonym

Good vocabulary activities encourage more than just memorization of definitions. That’s why we like this Jeopardy game idea. It explores synonyms and antonyms and how words are used in real sentences.

Learn more: Not So Wimpy Teacher

19. Use RAFTs to write vocabulary stories

Vocabulary RAFT printable worksheets

Writing a story using vocab words is a perennial favorite, but the RAFT method gives it a new twist. Students are assigned a Role (the point of view from which they’ll tell the story), an Audience, a Format, and a Topic. For instance, they might be an astronaut (Role) writing a postcard (Format) to their friends back home (Audience) about what they’ve seen on Mars (Topic). RAFTs are especially great for kids who claim they don’t know what to write about.

Learn more: RAFT/Teachingwriting.org

20. Discover the power of words

Write With Power printable vocabulary worksheet

Vocabulary words take on greater meaning when students incorporate them into their daily lives. Challenge kids to use their vocab words in conversation and writing outside the language arts classroom. Use the free printable worksheet here to help them keep track of how often they use them.

21. Create graphic organizers

Colorful graphic organizer for vocabulary words

Colorful organizers like these are terrific vocabulary activities. Want to go digital? Have kids make a slideshow, one slide per word. They can include the same information, but instead of drawing a picture, have them find one online that illustrates the concept.

Learn more: Graphic Organizers/Upper Elementary Snapshots

22. Focus on a Word of the Week

Printable Word of the Week vocabulary worksheet

Give really important terms the attention they deserve. Choose a new vocab word each week, then explore it in depth day by day.

Learn more: Lit in Focus

23. Join the Million Dollar Word Club

Million Dollar Words: Display 6-8 content related words. When a student uses one of the words in academic conversation or writing correctly, the class says "Cha-ching!" Opotinal: the student writes their name on a poster display underneath the words.

Post a list of target vocab words. If a student uses one of the words in class (outside of vocabulary activities), they become a member of the Million Dollar Word Club! You can have them sign their name on a wall in the classroom or award a badge online. You could even develop this into a reward system for homework passes or extra credit.

Learn more: Million Dollar Words/The Sassy Apple

24. Explore shades of meaning

Paint strips turned into acorns with vocabulary words and synonyms on them (Vocabulary Activities)

This is a cool idea for exploring synonyms and the slight differences that make words unique. Ask for paint sample strips at your local hardware store, or buy a clip art set. In the classroom, use these paint strips to make crafts for a bulletin board. Working in a virtual environment? Have kids print clip art strips at home or use the images to make slides or digital worksheets.

Learn more: Around the Kampfire

25. Personify a word with social media

Hand-drawn Facebook page for the vocabulary word Affluent

This is one of those vocabulary activities kids will want to do over and over again! Assign each student a word and have them create a fake Facebook, Instagram, or other social media page for it. They can draw them freehand or complete a template like these from Teachers Pay Teachers. Post the images to a shared Google slideshow so other students can use them for review.

Learn more: Reading and Writing Haven

26. Play vocabulary word Taboo

Vocabulary cards with synonyms on a pink-striped background

In this game, the goal is for one student to get their partner to guess the word by describing or giving examples of it. The trick? There’s a list of additional words they’re not allowed to use! Let other students see the card in advance to help keep the players honest. (Flash it on a whiteboard and have the guesser face away.)

Learn more: Teaching Talking

27. Roll a die for vocabulary activities

Roll a Word printable worksheet for vocabulary practice

Choose a vocab word, then have the student roll a die (these virtual dice are handy) to see which activity they get to complete.

Learn more: Roll a Word/Lucky Little Learners

28. Write an acrostic

Write an acrostic poem for each vocab term, using the letters to determine the first word in each line. This can get really challenging when words are longer!

Learn more: Vocab Acrostic/Upper Elementary Snapshots

29. Play vocabulary board games

a vocabulary board game called word on the street

Everyone knows that playing games is the best way to learn! Try some of these fabulous board games with your students and watch their vocabularies grow!

Learn more: 11 Vocab Games to Make the Learning Stick

30. Become a Word Collector

Word Collector children's book

This is one of those picture books that grown-up kids will enjoy as much as little ones. Use it to remind your kids that they don’t need a vocabulary list to learn new words—new words are all around them. Encourage them to keep a word list or journal of their own to record new words they want to explore and use more often.

Buy it: The Word Collector by Peter Reynolds on Amazon

Reading poetry helps students expand their vocabularies. Check out these must-share poems for elementary school and middle and high school.

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Help kids make a deeper connection to new words with these vocabulary activities. They work for any word list, elementary to high school.