12 simple and effective activities for practicing vocabulary

Vocabulary is important and teachers need to work hard to make learning new words
as entertaining as possible. The following list of activities can be used effectively
with most levels of students and in a variety of teaching situations. Teachers should
feel free to experiment and come up with some of their own activities but this list will
help get teachers started.
1. Mnemonics: Mnemonics is the name of a memory technique. In this
activity the teacher explains new vocabulary items by connecting the sound of the
word to a similar sounding word in the students’ first language. For example the
German word raupe (English caterpillar) sounds very similar to the English rope and
it could be taught by giving students the mental image of a caterpillar stretched out
like a rope.
2. Word Jumbles: Rearrange the letters of words and have students put them
back into the correct order to form words. Example LUARBACYVO =
3. Hangman: An activity where students have to guess letters to a mystery
word that you have chosen. Put blank spaces equaling the number of letters of a word
onto the board (Example BOARD = __ __ __ __ __ ) and then ask students to
guess letters. Correct letters are written into the correct blank and incorrect guesses
are written off to the side
4. Pictionary: Divide the class into teams and give a student a word written
on a card. Ask the student to draw the word on the board. If his team guesses the
word, they get a point. Do not allow the student drawing to speak or use gestures, this
will make it more fun!
5. Tic-Tac-Toe: A simple activity with X’s and O’s where students have to
use vocabulary words and form correct sentences from the words.
Put a vocabulary item into each box and tell students that in order to make their X or
O they must first create a correct sentence or definition with the word.
6. Word Search: An activity where the teacher hides vocabulary words in a
long list of letters and students have to find them.
7. Storytelling: Write some vocabulary words on the board and ask students
to tell a story using the words correctly. This is best done as a pair or small group
8. Scrabble: Give the class a group of seven letters and ask them to create as
many words as possible from the letters. Make it a competitive group activity and
develop a point system so longer words are more valuable. This works particularly
well for teaching prefixes and suffixes.
9. Synonym/Antonym dictation: If you have a word list to review, divide
the class into groups and quickly read 5-10 words that are synonyms or antonyms to
the words on the list. The group must remember or write the words that you read then
connect them to their synonyms or antonyms; the fastest group wins.
10. Parts of Speech Review: Print the words NOUN, VERB, ADVERB,
ADJECTIVE, OTHER onto the board. Have students/groups classify all the words on
their word list into the appropriate category.
11. Dictionary Work: Ask students to work with either a bilingual or
monolingual dictionary to define a list of new words. Do this as a competitive
activity with small groups working against one another.
12. Word Webs: Put a vocabulary word on the board and ask the class to
come up with as many words as they can that they associate with the word. Write
these words in a large “web” or circle around the original word. This type of
association activity helps students categorize new words effectively.
Handouts for


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