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Vocabulary Review Games

Memorizing vocabulary words can present a problem for many students. Spending class time practicing vocabulary memorization may seem, on the surface, a waste of valuable time. After all, doesn’t memorization all come down to study and practice? True, but  most of us did not leap out of the womb already knowing how to study and practice. In fact, many students have never learned how to study effectively, and many do not have home environments that are conducive to sufficient practice.

Good teachers know that we have to teach both content and process. The goal may be to get students to learn their vocabulary words (the content), but teaching a variety of study techniques to learn those vocabulary words helps students learn valuable critical thinking skills (the process). As a bonus, taking the time to model practice routines in the classroom will help instill habits that will carry over to homework.

Students are more likely to use study and practice procedures that are “game-like” and less boring than simple rote memorization. Here are some fun and effective vocabulary review games for groups and individuals in and out of the classroom. Check out Vocabulary Word Part Games for more.

Group Review Games

The Quick Picks Game

Divide your students into two groups and select one student as the host. Give the list of vocabulary words and definitions to the host for reference. Then, tell your students to take out their Vocabulary Study Cards for study and practice. Have the students spread out their cards on their desks word side up. The host announces the definition of one of the words and the students race to pick up the word that matches that definition. It is certainly fair for group members to help each other out. The first group with all students holding up the correct word part wins a point. Tell students to place each card word side down after it has been announced.. Once all words have been announced, reverse the procedure and announce definitions and students pick up the definition side up cards.

Vocabulary Millionaire

Divide your students into two groups and select one student as the host. Give the list of vocabulary words and definitions to the host for reference. Then, tell your students to take out their Vocabulary Study Cards for study and practice. Students stand next to their desks. The host flips a coin to determine which group goes first. The host announces a vocabulary word and the first student in the row must provide the definition. If the student is unsure of the definition, he or she may use a “lifeline” to ask another group member for assistance, but only once per game. If the student gets the definition correct, he or she remains standing; if incorrect, the student takes a seat and the next word goes to the opposing team. The team with the last student standing wins.


Divide your students into groups of four and tell students to select two students whose printed Vocabulary Study Cards look very different from each other, so they can be easily separated. Have one of these students lay out the cards vocabulary word side up and the other student lay out the cards definition side up. Students choose cards to pair the vocabulary word with its definition. If a student selects a correct match, that student chooses again; if not, the next student selects, etc. The winner has the most matches.


The teacher needs to assign each vocabulary word according to difficulty, from easy to hard, as a single, double, triple, or home run. Hint: Have many more singles cards than the others. Divide your students into two teams and establish four bases. When in the field, students sit in seats; when “up,” the students stand in line waiting their turn to bat. Teacher selects a single, double, triple, or home run card. Then, the teacher announces the vocabulary word and the batter must give the definition within five seconds or the batter is out. Mix it up by giving definitions and having students come up with the matching vocabulary words. Three outs per each team per inning. Select a student to serve as scorekeeper, and have that student keep the team scores on the board.

Individual Review Games


Have all students stand and quiz each student with a vocabulary word or definition. If the student gets it right within five seconds, the student remains standing; if not, the student sits. Last one standing wins the game.

Vocabulary Puzzles

Pass out light color construction paper, rulers, and scissors to each student. Tell your students that they will use their Vocabulary Study Cards to make a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces matching words with their definitions. Depending upon the shape of the jigsaw puzzle piece, that piece may have multiple words and/or definitions.


1. Draw jigsaw puzzle lines on one side of light color construction paper so that you can fit the word parts and their definitions. Avoid small puzzle pieces.

2. Print the word part in dark pen or pencil at the edge of one puzzle piece and its matching definition at the edge of another puzzle piece that touches it, just like the model shows. Finish labeling the puzzle.

3. Cut out the puzzle pieces and place the word parts and their matching definitions face down on your desk. Put together the puzzle.

4. Label other  word parts and their definitions on the blank side of the puzzle. You now have created two separate Vocabulary Puzzles.

5. Have students place their puzzles in zip-lock baggies to store. The baggies can be hole-punched to place in three-ring binders.

To Play

Have students race along with the clock to set their own world puzzle completion records. Students can also exchange puzzles and race each other.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons. (Check out a seventh grade teacher teaching the direct instruction and practice components of these lessons on YouTube.) The complete lessons also include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.tls-thumb

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Teaching the Language Strand “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

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  1. November 3rd, 2010 at 13:18 | #1

    this is a good website with good ideas. Thanks a lot for helping me with my vocabulary project for English.

  2. May 18th, 2011 at 09:08 | #2

    Great post! Thanks very much for the info

  3. Ann M. Taylor
    October 24th, 2011 at 01:23 | #3

    great ideas all in one place, thanks.

  4. Yria
    February 26th, 2012 at 13:59 | #4

    Excellente and useful ideas!
    Thank You!!!!!!!!! ^_^

  5. lalitha
    June 2nd, 2012 at 04:09 | #5

    wonderful website. It has made my work much easier. Thanks

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