Vocabulary is the number one predictor of your student’s academic and life success. That’s why I made it such a key part of Grammar Galaxy, a new, fun language arts curriculum for beginning readers. Reading is the best way to build vocabulary by far, but we can squeeze more vocabulary teaching in without our kids even realizing it through games.
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I’m including over 50 games that can be tailored to a wide range of grade levels and number of players. If you scroll down, you’ll find a list of online vocabulary game sites that are also free. If you love this list, be sure to check out the Ultimate List of Free Grammar Games as well.
Free Vocabulary Games
Antonym and Synonym Get There First Game – The player who is it says a word. Players get to take a step toward “It” when giving a correct synonym/antonym.
A Sticky Situation – The player who is it is in the center with a sticky note on their back with a vocabulary word on it. Students turn around in the circle so players can see and give clues to the word. The player that gives the winning clue is then it.
Beach Ball Vocabulary – Write words in marker on a beach ball. Players gently throw the ball. Whichever word a player’s thumb (right or left) is touching must be defined and used in a sentence.
Chat About It – Partners compare the number of words correctly defined/used in a sentence on a list.
Choose the Better Definition – Can help students differentiate shades of meaning.
Circle Rotation – Players form inner and outer circles. The outer circle player asks the facing inner circle player a question about a word and signs her sheet if she is correct. The player with the most signatures wins.
Definitely…Not…Kind Of – Students try to get their teammates to guess their vocabulary word by putting their descriptor words into definitely, not, and kind-of categories.
Dictionary Roll a Word – Encourages students to check the dictionary for the part of speech of a word, pronunciation and more using a die.
Don’t Break the Ice – Students hammer out the ice piece that corresponds to the definition read.
Don’t Say It – This is like Taboo for vocabulary words with a list of words that cannot be given as clues for guessing the word.
Erase a Word – Team members get to erase a correctly identified vocabulary word and win when all their words are erased.
Fake Texts – Text your students using a new vocabulary word and challenge them to use the context to determine meaning.
Fish Race – Teams or players move their fish one wave for correctly identifying vocabulary words (used for Spanish vocab, but appropriate for English as well).
Game Show – Students write their own vocabulary questions and answers on cards that are then used in a game show format.
Heads Down, Vocab Up – Played like Heads Up 7-UP only with vocabulary cards.
Homonym Bean Bag Toss – Players throw bean bags onto squares drawn with sidewalk chalk.
I Have, Who Has? – Could use these cards for synonyms.
Match-up – Using paper plates or index cards to match vocabulary words and definitions.
Memory – With vocabulary words and definitions.
Password of the Day – Students have to use the new vocabulary word to do things in the classroom.
Picture It! – Pictionary for vocabulary words.
Rate Your Happiness – Have students rate their happiness on a 1-5 scale if they experienced a situation using a vocabulary word.
Relay Runners – Teams compete to find the just-defined word in a stack of index cards at the finish line and return to their team the fastest.
Slap! – Call out a vocabulary word and the first student to slap it, adds it to his/her pile.
Sticky Note Match – Students write vocab words on sticky notes, outline them on the board and write the definition in the square. Their partner has to match them.
That’s Nonsense! – Print out sentences that include nonsense words and have players match vocabulary words to the correct sentences. Can do this with teams and by timing.
Toss and Answer – Students throw a ball or small object into a muffin tin that has a word in each compartment. Students could define the word or have to use it in a sentence.
True or Untrue – Kids can give the correct definition or try to fool players with a fake one.
Vocab-Categories – like Scattegories
Vocab Twister – Tape words to the colored circles of a Twister game and have students define or use words they have to touch.
Vocabulary Basket Toss – Correctly identified words earn one point or two if the crumpled up paper with the word lands in the trash basket.
Vocabulary Cubes – Partners roll two dice to determine which vocabulary word to communicate and how to communicate it.
Vocabulary Kaboom – Words are drawn on sticks and must be used correctly. If a player draws a kaboom stick, all the sticks must be returned to the cup.
Vocabulary Oops! – Players get to keep vocabulary cards they correctly identify until they draw an Oops! card
Vocabulary Social – Students wear vocab words in lanyards and introduce themselves as their word.
Vocabulary Spelling Game – Students use letter tiles to spell out words based on the definition.
Vocabulary Word Snowball Fight – Vocab words and definitions are written on separate pieces of paper that are crumpled up and thrown. Students pick up a word and have to find the student who has their definition. You could compete for time.
What’s My Word? – Students wear vocabulary words as headbands and have sheets with questions about their words to ask their fellow students to determine their word. You can also have students tape words to their foreheads.
Word Trains Vocabulary – Students have to identify word roots when given a prefix and suffix.
Wordo – Played like Tac-Tic-Toe with vocabulary words.
Word Shark – PowerPoint game played like Boggle.
Word Sneak – Pairs attempt to sneak vocabulary words into conversation.
Word Speed – Write as many words as they can think of in a time limit, getting points for correct words.
Word Up Baseball – The teacher is the pitcher who throws the “ball” to the student batter. The batter must throw the ball to the correct player / word in the outfield.