Written by Cassie (Teach Starter)
Vocabulary activities and vocabulary games a great way to expose your students to new words. Not only that but learning new words (and reinforcing their understanding of familiar words) in a fun way helps build confidence in expression and linguistic creativity. This list of vocabulary activity ideas for primary students includes individual activities, activities suitable for pair-work and whole class activities and games too!
Lower Years Vocabulary Activity Ideas
Erase a Word
In this game, you can select word lists that are related to current units, or even use it for sight word practice.
You will need:
- 3 whiteboard erasers
How to play:
- Break students into three teams, standing in lines in front of the board.
- Write three lists of words onto the board, one list in front of each team.
- On the teachers signal, the first person in each team goes up to the board and reads aloud one of the words on the list.
- If they get the word correct they erase the word and go to the back of their team’s line.
- The first team to erase all of the words on their list is the winner.
This I Spy an Object Jar resource can be used in so many ways! You could provide the jar and the worksheet for students to complete individually, or you could project the PDF file up onto the board to run a whole class game of “I Spy”.
Students need to provide three different words that describe the object they choose from all of the pictures in the jar.
Middle Years Vocabulary Activity Ideas
A-Z Vocabulary Relay Race
This is a fun, physical vocabulary game that is great to play outdoors or in a large multi-purpose area. Students play in teams, racing to complete a list of words (one for every letter of the alphabet) around a familiar topic or theme.
You will need:
- pens or pencils
- A4 paper
How to play:
- Divide students into mixed ability teams of 4 – 5.
- Students stand in a line on one side of the space. On the other side of the space place a pen or pencil and tape to the ground a sheet of paper with the letters A-Z listed down the side.
- Choose a topic that the students are familiar with, that will be the theme for all of the words that the students write on their A-Z list.
- The race begins with the leader running to the paper and writing a word beginning with “A” that is related to the theme, then they run back to their team.
- Then, the next team member runs up to the paper and writes a word beginning with “B”.
- If a student cannot come up with a word, they can call a friend to help. If they still can’t come up with a word they can call the teacher for help.
- Teams continue this word relay until they have written a word for every letter with the first team to complete their word list (and have it verified by the teacher!) are the winners.
Finger Twist Up Game
In this fun game, students take a turn with the spinner and use their fingers to create a word with the initial blends and final sounds in the corresponding coloured spots.
To turn this into a vocab activity, ask your students use the word they created in a sentence that makes sense. This will prove their understanding of that particular word.
You can download and print this awesome Finger Twist Up Game with a Starter, Teacher or Ultimate Teach Starter plan.
Upper Years Vocabulary Activity Ideas
In this game, students work in teams (similar to the A-Z relay detailed above) to create a word snake on the board. Students have a limited time (e.g. 10 seconds) to write their word or their team risks being eliminated.
What you need:
- 4 – 5 mixed ability teams of equal numbers
- 4 -5 different coloured whiteboard markers or chalk
- a timer or stopwatch.
How to play:
- Teams send their leader up to the board. Team leaders take a coloured marker and stand in a line.
- The teacher begins the game by writing a letter on the board. E.g. “g”
- The first team leader writes a word beginning with that letter and must complete the word within the time limit. E.g. “galaxy” Then they hand their marker to the next person in their team.
- The second team leader uses the last letter of the previous word as the first letter of the next word, also within the time limit. E.g. “yoghurt” Then they hand their marker to the next person in their team.
Note: Students write the words without spaces, in essence creating a word snake. E.g. galaxyoghurt
- If a student cannot come up with a word within the time limit they can pass to the next team member.
- Limit the number of passes each team can have. After this, the team is eliminated.
- The last team standing is the winner!
This new resource is a great vocabulary activity to use during literacy rotations or as a fast finisher activity. Students can use a paperback or electronic dictionary to complete the tasks on the “Dictionary Dig” cards.
You might also like to check out these additional amazing vocabulary teaching resources!