Vocabulary Assignments For Middle School

When to Play

After all the day’s planned lessons have been completed, it is not uncommon to have a few minutes to spare before the bell rings. Or, sometimes you need to divide up a long lesson with a quick, energetic break. Use these time slots to invigorate students and enhance their vocabulary comprehension with mini games!

These games are intentionally designed to require minimal preparation and basic rules so that you can quickly choose one and immediately get playing. The games can be used to review the current unit’s words and older ones as well, and they serve as an excellent way to informally check for understanding. These games can also be expanded for longer play and review, which may be especially useful in after-school and summer-school sessions. Vary your games for increased interest; students may grow bored of the same game each week. It is always useful to model an example of game play before the game begins.

The games are listed in order of critical thinking required; the earlier games review the basics and the later games require deeper critical thinking.

Get a printable list of these vocabulary games.


Simple List

The Rules:

Divide students into two (or more) teams. Give each team one minute to list as many words as possible from the current unit on a piece of paper. The team with the most words wins.

Materials Needed:
How to Expand the Game:
  • The team with the most words must explain the definition of each word. If they miss a definition, the other team can take over explaining those definitions to win.
Look Out For:
  • If you have a word wall, cover it during this game.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Provide students with the first letter of the words or pictures of the words before they complete their list.


Conversation Competition

The Rules:

Assign each student a partner. When the teacher says go, the students stand up and have a specific amount of time to talk with their partners on any appropriate subject. They must use at least 10 of the unit’s words in their conversation and check them off as they use them. When they’ve used all 10, they sit down. The teacher should circulate the classroom during the game to engage students in conversation and keep them on task. The first students to finish win a prize, but only if they share their conversation with the class and used the words correctly. If not, the next group shares, and so forth.

Materials Needed:
  • Unit’s word list for each student (can also use index of book)
How to Expand the Game:
  • After the game, you might ask multiple student groups who were having strong, vocabulary-rich discussions to share their conversation with the class.
  • If students have been sitting for a long time prior to the start of the game, you can encourage the partner groups to walk around the room together while they talk.
Look Out For:
  • Make sure that students are not using words to discuss inappropriate matters or insult each other.
  • Make sure students are using words correctly.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Partner ELLs with native speakers.
  • Use a shorter list of words.
  • Give students specific topics to discuss.


Erase a Word

The Rules:

Divide students into two teams. Write two lists of unit words on the board (one for each member of each team). Each team forms a line leading to the board. When given the signal, the first child on each team goes up to the board, points at the first word in the team’s column, and reads aloud that word. If the student reads the word correctly, he or she erases that word. The student then moves to the back of his or her team’s line. The first team to erase all the words on their list wins.

Materials Needed:
How to Expand the Game:
  • Instead of pronunciation, students could say the definition of the word, give an example of the word, correct a misspelled word, etc., in order to erase it.
Look Out For:
  • Make sure students in line don’t call out the answers.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Review the pronunciation of words before the game begins.


Vocab Shot

The Rules:

Divide the class into two teams. Each member of the team is asked a vocabulary question (definition, spelling, pronunciation, etc.). If the student gets the answer right, he wins a point for his team, and he has the chance of getting another question if he’s able to make a basketball shot. If the student makes the shot, he’s asked another question. If he gets that right, he has another chance at the basketball shot, but this time he must take a step or two back. This continues until the student misses a shot or gets a question wrong. In either case, the next question goes to the other team. After everyone has had a turn, the team with the most points wins.

Materials Needed:
  • Foam basketball and hoop (or paper wad and recycling bin)
  • List of words for teacher
How to Expand the Game:
  • Each time the student earns another basketball shot, the difficulty of questions can increase. For instance, the first question could be spelling, the second question could be a definition, etc.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • You can vary the level of difficulty for each question depending on each student’s level. For instance, give spelling and pronunciation questions to students who are struggling with vocabulary, and definition and example questions to students who have already mastered spelling and pronunciation.


Circle Rotation

The Rules:

Divide class into two groups and have them form an inner and outer circle, with students facing each other. For the first 15 seconds, each student in the inner circle asks a prepared vocabulary question (about spelling, pronunciation, definition, example, etc.) to the student she is facing. If the outer-circle student answers correctly, the inner-circle student signs his word list. For the next 15 seconds, the outer-circle student asks the inner-circle student a question, and signs her sheet if she answers correctly. Then students rotate to the right and repeat the process with the new students they face. Whoever has the most signatures at the end of the game time wins.

Materials Needed:
  • List of words for each student
  • Pen for each student
How to Expand the Game:
  • Play until everyone has reached his or her original partner.
Look Out For:
  • Make sure to demonstrate different types of vocabulary questions.
  • If you have an odd number of students, make one student the “supervisor” who walks around the circle to keep other students on task.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Give students one minute or more to prepare questions. They can use the same questions multiple times.
  • Expand question-and-answer time to 30 seconds or a minute.


Mini Game Show

The Rules:

Divide students into two teams and give each student a number. Number 1 from each team comes to the front of the room. The teacher reads a clue related to a word (the clue could be a definition or example of the word) and the first person to slap the board or desk gets to answer. If correct, his team earns a point. If incorrect, the person from the other team has a chance to earn a point. Repeat with the following sets of students. The team with the most points wins.

Materials Needed:
How to Expand the Game:
  • With further preparation, you can arrange the clues on the board according to category with varying points and difficulties, just like on TV.
Look Out For:
  • Depending on your comfort level, you can prepare the clues in advance or make up clues on the spot.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Post possible words on the chalkboard.
  • Have students compete from their seats rather than come to the front of the class.
  • Have students compete in teams.


Charades

The Rules:

Divide students into two teams. One student from one team comes to the front of the class, chooses a word from the basket, and acts out the word without speaking. Whichever team yells out the correct word first earns a point. The next student to act out a word comes from the other team, and so on. Whichever team has the most points when time is called wins.

Materials Needed:
  • Each word on a separate small piece of paper
  • A basket
How to Expand the Game:
  • This game can be played for a longer period of time to review for an exam. You can also include bonus words from other units for deeper review.
Look Out For:
  • Make sure to have a set time period so that students feel it is fair for one team to win.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Post possible words on the chalkboard.
  • Use a smaller group of words.
  • Play the game in small groups, with one student acting out the word for two or three classmates.


Guess My Word

The Rules:

Divide students into two teams. One student from one team comes toWhichever team yells out the correct word first earns a point. The next student to describe a word comes from the other team, and so on. Whichever team has the most points when time is called wins. You may wish to limit each team to two or three guesses per turn.

Materials Needed:
  • Each word on a separate small piece of paper
  • A basket
How to Expand the Game:
  • For each word, write a list of commonly associated words that the students cannot use in their descriptions.
Look Out For:
  • Make sure to have a set time period so that students feel it is fair for one team to win.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Give students the full list ahead of time and allow them to write out their clues for each word so they don’t have to come up with clues on the spot.


That’s Sketchy

The Rules:

Divide students into two teams. One student from one team comes to the front of the class, chooses a word from the basket, and draws a picture representation of the word without writing any letters. Whichever team yells out the correct word first earns a point. The next student to draw a word comes from the other team, and so on. Whichever team has the most points when time is called wins. You may wish to limit each team to two or three guesses per turn.

Materials Needed:
  • Each word on a separate small piece of paper
  • A basket
  • Chalk or marker
How to Expand the Game:
  • This game can be played for a longer period of time to review for an exam. You can also include bonus words from other units for deeper review.
Look Out For:
  • Make sure to have a set time period so that students feel it is fair for one team to win.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Post possible words on the chalkboard.
  • Use a smaller group of words.
  • Play the game in small groups, with one student drawing the word for two or three classmates.


Categories

The Rules:

The teacher announces a category and students select the words that go into that category.

Possible categories include:

  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Emotional words
  • Temporal words
  • Put the words in alphabetical order
  • Words with three syllables
  • Words with prefixes or suffixes
Materials Needed:
  • A set of all words on small separate sheets of paper for each student
How to Expand the Game:
  • Have students explain why they put certain words in each category.
Look Out For:
  • Circulate the classroom to make sure all students are engaged.
  • This game works best with a large group of words.
  • If students have a word that you didn’t expect in a category, ask them to explain their reasoning.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Students can sort words into their own categories and then have other students guess what the category is.
  • Students can work in groups.


Newspaper Detective

The Rules:

Hand at least one page of the newspaper or magazine to each student. Each student finds a picture or article that relates to a word from the week and cuts it out. After most students have found words, ask them to explain to the class why their picture or article relates to their word of choice.

Materials Needed:
  • Any newspaper or magazine (can use one or a few)
  • Scissors
How to Expand the Game:
  • Have students write on a separate sheet of paper why this picture or article relates to their chosen word. Possibly post some on the word wall.
  • Ask students to find as many articles or pictures as possible that relate to multiple words.
Look Out For:
  • Try to choose sections of the newspaper with more pictures, including ads.
  • Make sure to leave time for students to clean up their newspaper and magazine scraps.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Students can work in groups to find related pictures and articles.
  • Students can bring in newspapers or magazines in their native language.


Word Up Baseball

The Rules:

Divide students into two teams and create a baseball diamond in your classroom (or go outside if possible). The teacher is the pitcher. Each member of team 1 takes a word and stands in the infield and outfield. Team 2 stands in line at home plate. The teacher asks a question from Fix the Mistake or Pick the Winner and then tosses the ball to the batter. The batter says the correct word and then throws the ball to the correct word. The team earns one point if the batter says the correct word and two points if he or she hits the correct word. After three incorrect words (strikes), the teams switch. The game ends when the teacher calls time or when all questions are complete.

Materials Needed:
  • Use with Fix the Mistake or Pick the Winner for middle-school levels
  • A large photocopy of each word on a separate sheet of paper
  • A foam ball, tennis ball, or crumpled piece of paper
How to Expand the Game:
  • You can create additional questions to play this game beyond workbook exercises.
  • To review, students can complete the exercises in their workbooks after the game.
  • If playing outside, you can increase difficulty by playing with a bat.
Look Out For:
  • Make sure to use a soft ball (not a softball) so it doesn’t hurt any students.
Possible Modifications for ELLs and Students with Special Needs:
  • Students can complete exercises in their workbooks before the game starts.

Trying to find some new practice activities for your existing vocabulary units? These brain-based vocabulary approaches are unique – perhaps just what you need. 

Welcome to “This or That,” a monthly chat where the authors of Reading and Writing Haven and Language Arts Classroom cover different ways of approaching common decisions in the ELA classroom.

Do your students smile at you when you begin a vocabulary lesson? Do they act interested or ask questions? Are they willing to try using the words in their own speaking and writing? Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I’m “on” with my vocabulary instruction, my students are, too. They’re into it. They’re learning. They’re motivated. In contrast, when I rush through vocabulary instruction because of time constraints, lack of preparation, or simply lack of enthusiasm, my students can read me like an open book.

A few months ago, I wrote about increasing vocabulary retention in the secondary classroom. Retention is ultimately the goal of vocabulary instruction, but in order to get there, teachers need to differentiate their instruction and practice activities to reach all types of learners, which includes adding variety through learning styles and critical thinking levels. While I provided a few ideas regarding how students can interact with vocabulary words in the last post, I’d like to get more specific and explore several unique and creative avenues that teachers can incorporate into their curriculums. While I teach ELA, these ideas can apply to word lists from any content area.

So let’s look at a handful of my favorite vocabulary activities.

 

3 Truths and a Lie

Games are fun. If your classroom culture calls for games, engagement, and student-directed learning, try out 3 truths and a lie. The best part about this game (other than the fact that it’s enjoyable) is that students create it. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE making games to use my classroom. Yet, vocabulary is a perfect vehicle for students to be in charge of their learning, to create something meaningful. I simply ask them to select a word from their list and then to write down four statements about that word. I encourage them to think about the word’s part of speech, the definition, related and unrelated words, associations they may have, and the word’s personality. One of the statements they write should be a lie. Here’s an example:

Ubiquitous

  1. Ubiquitous is kind of like the plague. Even if you don’t like it, you can’t get rid of it.
  2. Ubiquitous is an adverb.
  3. Ubiquitous is cousins with the words “pervasive” and “universal.”
  4. If cockroaches were ubiquitous, I’d move to Mars.

Your students can get as creative (or as simplistic) as they want with their sentences. After creating them, collect the statements, and put students in small groups. Have them discuss the words and statements to try to identify the lie (in the example above, the lie is #2). If you’re concerned about the accuracy of your students’ sentences and want to avoid unnecessary confusion, read through them first and have students work in groups to discuss them the next day.

Why this works: 1. Students are doing the thinking.  2. It can be straightforward (recall) or higher-order thinking (analytical), so it’s differentiated by nature.  3. It’s engaging.  4. Students will remember many of the lies and the truths, so it will help them to retain the word meanings longer.

Bumper Words

Bumper words is a categorizing activity that helps students to learn the relationships between words on their list. If you plan to use a bumper words activity, keep that in mind when selecting your word list so that it’s easier to create the assignment. Here’s how it works. 

Teacher-Directed

You (the teacher) group the words into categories. You can make this into a worksheet or a graphic organizer, or you can just write them on the board to use as a class activity. Another option is to create a manipulative for small groups or station use. When you put the words into groups (of 3 to 5 is best), all of the words should relate except for one. The students’ job is to figure out which word is not related, and they bump it to the next word group. It’s a chain effect. Here’s an example:

As you can see, in the first group of words, abase, demean, and humiliate can all be related, but extol does not fit. So, it gets bumped to group two, where students look for another ill-fitting word that is then bumped to group 3, and so on. When creating this activity, you can use words that are not on your vocabulary list to complement the ones that are.

Student-Directed

Again, if you want to ask your students to think more critically about their words, you can ask them to create a bumper words chain using all or some of the words on their list. This works well as a group assignment. Students could create their bumper words combinations on a piece of easel paper or large poster board, and then groups can rotate around the room to try to solve each other’s puzzles. If you choose to have students create their own examples, it would be beneficial to show them how to make one by modeling it together or analyzing an existing example first.

Why this works: 1. Students are thinking about the words and how they relate to other words, thereby making associations.  2. Once again, this activity can be differentiated by ability level.  3. It engages students in meaningful interaction with their words.  4. It’s unique…your students probably haven’t heard of this one before. Ride the novelty wave.

Personify a Word Using Social Media

Because social media is such a pervasive aspect of twenty-first century learning, I’m always looking for healthy ways to incorporate it in my classroom. One of the things I love about teaching vocabulary is that it can be creative. Words can be given personalities based on their meaning. I often ask students to personify a word in order to get them to think about it differently. Here are four of my favorite assignments that include word personalities using social media:

  1. Facebook: Have students create a Facebook poster based on one of the words on their list.
  2. Twitter: Ask students to create a Twitter profile and feed for a word.
  3. Instagram: Students can create a scrapbook or Instagram posts for their word.
  4. Pinterest:Give students the task of creating a Pinterest profile for a word, including a list of boards and pins that would relate to that word.

When I give students assignments like these, I find it’s beneficial to allow them to choose a word they want to learn after discussing what they will do with it. I always encourage students to select a new word…one they either have never heard of, or one they have heard of but cannot explain. By discussing the task before selecting the word, students will be able to choose a word they want to use to complete the assignment, and ownership is key when it comes to creativity. Some of my struggling readers and writers might be overwhelmed if I asked them to select any word they want, so it’s a great differentiation / scaffolding option to have a list of suggestions prepared.

Why this works: 1. In order to do any of these assignments WELL, students must think deeply and meaningfully about the word.  2. Students will take it upon themselves to analyze the social media outlet more closely than they have in the past. What text structures does it have? What is the common language and culture of the site? These questions must be studied and answered before creating a product.  3. It hooks students by allowing them to utilize their creativity and social natures to learn about vocabulary. 4. It is easy to incorporate technology. While students can create a poster like the one above, they could also use digital platforms to complete the assignment.

Pictures, Short Films, & Music

A fun way to incorporate writing into your vocabulary instruction is through the use of pictures, short films, and music. They can all be used similarly for this assignment. Although numerous options exist, these three ideas are a good place to start:

  1. Simply ask students to do some research and find a certain number of pictures, short films, or songs that relate to words on their vocabulary list. You could have them focus specifically on one word and find a picture, a short film, and a song that relates to it, or you could ask them to choose ten words off the list and find one connection for each word. Either way, students are building onto existing knowledge about a word an using critical thinking skills to make meaningful connections. I like to have my students write a short paragraph (3-5 sentences) explaining their connections to the word.
  2. Another way to use these elements is to incorporate them as bell ringers. Each day, begin the class by projecting an image, showing a short film, or playing a song for students. After watching or listening, ask students to make connections between the artwork and words on their vocabulary list. To elicit more participation, I have my students write their thoughts first, then talk with a partner, and finally share with the class.
  3. Give your students a sheet of small images (I like to using small pictures they can color), and tell them to match each picture to a word on their vocabulary list. They can then explain in a few short sentences why each picture and word relate. Simple but effective. You can download my example by clicking on the image below.

Why this works: 1. Music, movies, and pictures are embedded in our culture. Students appreciate learning opportunities that incorporate media relevant to their lives.  2. This assignment is a simple way to differentiate by learning styles. It appeals to students who are musical and visual by nature.  3. Once again, forming connections to vocabulary words will help students remember them longer. 4. It can be scaffolded for students on various scales of the literacy ladder.

Mind Maps

I use mind maps as choice assignments throughout the year with various aspects of my curriculum. Mind maps are excellent brain-based activities that help students retain the definition of a word instead of memorizing it for a quiz and forgetting it. When I assign mind maps in relation to vocabulary words, I generally have students select one word from our list instead of several because the connections will be more meaningful for them. A good tip is to first ask students to circle any words on their vocabulary list that they cannot define on the spot — in that moment. Afterward, have them choose one word they want to study more intentionally, and then introduce the mind map assignment. If you give them the specifics of the assignment first, they might be more likely to select an “easy” word from the list.

I like to project example mind maps (you can easily find some by googling the term “vocabulary mind maps”). Together, we analyze the structure, design, and content of the example maps to determine students’ options. We also talk about my expectations (what’s acceptable and what’s not). In this way, we essentially develop a student-generated rubric on the spot. Bonus.

What can students incorporate in their mind maps? I encourage mine to use the basics (relate it to synonyms, antonyms, and examples), but I also ask them to stretch their imaginations to incorporate visual components, categories related to the word, colors that symbolize the word, and other symbolic elements.

Why this works:1. Research shows that mind maps are  brain-based learning activities.  2. Thinking symbolically about a word helps students to deepen their understanding of it.  3. Mind maps require students to engage with a word meaningfully from different angles for an extended period of time. 4. It combines right-brain creative style learning with left-brain logic style learning, resulting in a powerful and memorable experience.

Honestly, I could go on. And on. And on. I’m pretty passionate about both finding and creating unique vocabulary activities and outlets that are effective at increasing retention. Inspired and wanting more vocabulary ideas? Read this sister post in which I discuss five more of my favorite, brain-based vocabulary practice activities for the secondary classroom. Keep calm, and practice on!

Before using any of these strategies in your classroom, you will need to establish a solid list of vocabulary words. For some inspiration regarding how to strategically and effectively select word lists, click on over to Lauralee at Language Arts Classroom. She has some insights to share with you!


RELATED RESOURCES:

5 Brain-Based Vocabulary Activities for the Secondary Classroom was last modified: December 11th, 2017 by Melissa Kruse

0 Replies to “Vocabulary Assignments For Middle School”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *