36 Meaningful Vocabulary Activities for Every Grade

Learning new words is like adding to your writing toolbox. The more tools available, the more interesting and engaging your writing becomes. Check out these fun and engaging vocabulary activities for kids in grades K-12, and supply your students with the tools they need to build their wordsmith skills.

A clipboard with a vocabulary short story written on it
Lucky Little Learners

1. Write vocabulary stories

Using vocabulary words in writing shows mastery. Challenge your students to use all of their vocabulary words in an original short story. Allow students to pair up and share their stories with a partner.

Learn more: Vocab Short Story 

2. Put your students in the hot seat

Divide your class into two teams. Choose one student from one team to go to the front of the room and sit in a chair facing the class with their back to the board. This person is “on the spot.” Place a word on the board so everyone can see it except the person in the chair. One at a time, team members give the person a clue about the mystery word. If the word is guessed before two minutes are up, the team gets a point and play turns to the other team.

Learn more: On the Spot at Upper Elementary Snapshots

A vocabulary activity set featuring vocabulary words and definitions as an example of vocabulary activities
Teach Starter

3. Match up words and definitions

Download these vocabulary words and matching definitions. Distribute one card to each student (either a word or a definition). Allow students to circulate in the room and find their “match.” Switch cards and repeat.

Learn more: Dictionary Sort

A word map made up around the word cowboys
Southern Fried Teachin’

4. Sketch up word maps

Creating word maps from vocabulary words encourages students to find the relationships between the vocabulary word and other words. Have them include words, pictures, examples, real-world connections, definitions, descriptive words, etc.

Learn more: Word Map

A small clipboard with a purple post-it note attached on top of a floral backdrop
Spark Creativity

5. Create Post-it stations

Post vocabulary words around the room, then have students circulate and write an original sentence using that word on a sticky note. Follow along and make sure students use the words correctly.

Learn more: Post-it Stations

A hand pulling a car with an illustration of popcorn and the word pop! out of a red and white striped bag as an example of vocabulary activities
Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

6. Play a game of Pop!

Kids draw cards out of the bag and attempt to correctly spell them. But be careful, you don’t want to draw the Pop! card.

Learn more: Pop!

7. Take a gallery walk

Hang six to eight large sheets of chart paper in various places around the room. On each sheet, write one vocabulary word. Have students work in small groups, rotating between stations. At each station, ask students to come up with a different, original way to use each word. Continue the activity until all students have visited every station.

Learn more: Gallery Walk at TeachWriting.org

A Pictionary vocabulary worksheet
Literacy in Focus

8. Play a round of Pictionary

This fun activity requires students to draw a picture for each word to create their own visual dictionary. When students create their own visual representations, they develop an association with the word that they will be able to tap into when needed.

Learn more: Pictionary


Word map for the word 'respect' as an example of vocabulary activities
Upper Elementary Snapshots

9. Make a word map

Word maps help deepen understanding of a vocab word by relating it to other words and concepts students already know.

Learn more: Word Map

Frayer Model for the word Noun
Southern Fried Teachin’

10. Use the Frayer model

Frayer models are a popular way to learn new words and concepts. Kids define the word in their own terms, then list facts and characteristics, examples, and non-examples.

Learn more: Frayer Model

An example of student note-taking method Sketchnotes
Spark Creativity

11. Draw vocabulary Sketchnotes

Kids and teachers love Sketchnotes! Rather than writing out definitions, have students draw a sketch that sums up each word instead. It’s a lot more fun and gives kids an image for visual association to help them remember the meanings.

Learn more: Sketchnotes

Printable vocabulary worksheet for Bumper Words game as an example of vocabulary activities
Reading and Writing Haven

12. Bump words along

Group vocab words together with a few other words with similar meanings and one that’s an antonym. Students identify the antonym and “bump” it to the next box, filling in the next group of words. They continue until the worksheet is full.

Learn more: Bumper Words

Vocabulary Activities Digging Deeper
Digging Deeper

13. Post a graffiti wall

Think of a vocabulary graffiti wall like a collaborative word wall. In the classroom, post the words on the wall and have kids add sticky notes to illustrate the term (they can use words or pictures). Online, try a tool like Padlet or Google Slides.

Learn more: Graffiti Wall

Character Match printable worksheet showing a drawing of a person with matching vocabulary words
The Sassy Apple

14. Match words to describe character

This is a terrific way to practice vocab words pulled from books you’re reading. Ask students to use various words to describe the different characters in the book and their feelings, thoughts, and actions.

Learn more: Vocabulary Activities

Printable A to Z vocabulary word game worksheet as an example of vocabulary activities
Literacy in Focus

15. Fill in words from A to Z

This vocabulary game is fun and challenging, and it can be played by kids of any age. Choose a word, then challenge kids to come up with related words for as many letters as possible. These could be synonyms, antonyms, examples, and more. Trickier letters are worth more points!

Learn more: A to Z

Screenshot of a teacher using communication program Flip
Forever Teacher via Twitter

16. Try Flip for vocabulary activities

Are you on the Flip (formerly Flipgrid) bandwagon yet? It’s perfect for vocabulary activities! Have kids record a quick video for each word, using their creativity to make it fun and meaningful.

Learn more: Pop-Up Pods

A Vocabulary Jeopardy game board
Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

17. Battle it out in Vocabulary Jeopardy

Good vocabulary activities encourage more than just memorization of definitions. That’s why we like this Jeopardy game idea. It explores synonyms and antonyms and how words are used in real sentences.

Learn more: Not So Wimpy Teacher

Example of a vocabulary learning method called RAFT as an example of vocabulary activities

18. Use RAFTs to write vocabulary stories

Writing a story using vocab words is a perennial favorite, but the RAFT method gives it a new twist. Students are assigned a Role (the point of view from which they’ll tell the story), an Audience, a Format, and a Topic. For instance, they might be an astronaut (Role) writing a postcard (Format) to their friends back home (Audience) about what they’ve seen on Mars (Topic). RAFTs are especially great for kids who claim they don’t know what to write about.

Learn more: RAFTs

Vocabulary Activities WeAreTeachers
We Are Teachers

19. Discover the power of words

Vocabulary words take on greater meaning when students incorporate them into their daily lives. Challenge kids to use their vocab words in conversation and writing outside the language arts classroom. Use the free printable worksheet here to help them keep track of how often they use them.

Learn more: Downloadable Vocabulary Activities

Colorful vocabulary graphic organizer
Teaching Fourth

20. Create graphic organizers

Colorful organizers like these are terrific vocabulary activities. Want to go digital? Have kids make a slideshow, one slide per word. They can include the same information, but instead of drawing a picture, have them find one online that illustrates the concept.

Learn more: Graphic Organizers at Upper Elementary Snapshots

A vocabulary worksheet for children to learn a word a week as an example of vocabulary activities
Literacy in Focus

21. Focus on a Word of the Week

Give really important terms the attention they deserve. Choose a new vocab word each week, then explore it in depth day by day.

Learn more: Word of the Week

W worksheet for vocabulary activity Million Dollar Words
The Sassy Apple

22. Join the Million Dollar Word Club

Post a list of target vocab words. If a student uses one of the words in class (outside of vocabulary activities), they become a member of the Million Dollar Word Club! You can have them sign their name on a wall in the classroom or award a badge online. You could even develop this into a reward system for homework passes or extra credit.

Learn more: Million Dollar Words

A vocabulary activity for students using paint sample cards
Around the Kampfire

23. Explore shades of meaning

This is a cool idea for exploring synonyms and the slight differences that make words unique. Ask for paint sample strips at your local hardware store, or buy a clip art set.

Learn more: Shades of Meaning

A colorful example of a vocabulary activity  as an example of vocabulary activities
Reading and Writing Haven

24. Personify a word with social media

This is one of those vocabulary activities kids will want to do over and over again! Assign each student a word and have them create a faux Facebook, Instagram, or other social media page for it. They can draw them freehand or complete a template like these from Teachers Pay Teachers. Post the images to a shared Google slideshow so other students can use them for review.

Learn more: Social Media Vocabulary

An index card decorated with vocabulary activities
Teaching Fourth

25. Create vocabulary cards

Have students draw a diagonal line across an index card. On the top half, have them write the vocabulary word and definition. On the bottom half, have them draw a picture of the word and use it in a sentence. Cards can be joined together in a strip for easy review.

Learn more: Index Card Vocabulary

A Vocabulary game version of the game Taboo
Teaching Talking

26. Play vocabulary word Taboo

In this game, the goal is for one student to get their partner to guess the word by describing or giving examples of it. The trick? There’s a list of additional words they’re not allowed to use! Let other students see the card in advance to help keep the players honest. (Flash it on a whiteboard and have the guesser face away.)

Learn more: Don’t Say It! Vocabulary Game

A bright pink vocabulary worksheet entitled Roll a Word as an example of vocabulary activities
Lucky Little Learners
A vocabulary worksheet used by students to form an acrostic from a vocab word
Upper Elementary Snapshots

28. Write an acrostic

Write an acrostic poem for each vocab term, using the letters to determine the first word in each line. This can get really challenging when words are longer!

Learn more: Acrostic Poem

A vocabulary board game called word on the street
We Are Teachers

29. Play vocabulary board games

Everyone knows that playing games is the best way to learn. Try some of these fabulous board games with your students and watch their vocabularies grow.

Learn more: 11 Vocab Games To Make the Learning Stick

Cover image of Peter Reynolds' book The Word Collector as an example of vocabulary activities

30. Become a Word Collector

This is one of those picture books that grown-up kids will enjoy as much as little ones. Use it to remind your kids that they don’t need a vocabulary list to learn new words—new words are all around them. Encourage them to keep a word list or journal of their own to record new words they want to explore and use more often.

Buy it: The Word Collector

Two young students wearing head bands giggle at each other

31. Play Vocabulary Headbanz

Make or buy headbands with a notch on the front designed to hold a card. Create cards with vocabulary words on them. To play, each student gets a card but can’t see it. Other students will describe the word, trying to get the one wearing the headband to guess the correct word.

Learn more: Vocab Headbanz

A vocabulary lesson version of the game Go Fish
Katelyn’s Learning Studio

32. Go Fish!

A fun and lively way to practice vocabulary words. Create a deck of vocabulary words with two of each word. Explain the rules of Go Fish to students and let them loose!

Learn more: Go Fish Vocab Game

Wooden letter beads threaded onto a pipe cleaner and vocabulary cards with pictures as an example of vocabulary activities

33. String three-letter words

Using wooden letter beads and pipe cleaners, students will form three-letter words that match vocabulary cards.

Learn more: Three-Letter Busy Bag

An adult and two kids play a round of vocabulary charades

34. Play vocabulary charades

Everybody loves an exciting round of charades. Break your students into groups, provide them with a stack vocabulary cards, and watch them learn!

Learn more: Word Charades

A teacher and student lay side by side on a mat as they make words with plastic letters

35. Make words

Use plastic letters, magnet letters, or letter blocks to make words. Play it mentally with older kids, or with paper and pencil. Simply give your children some letters and challenge them to make words from those letters.

Learn more: Make a Word

A dictionary surrounded by vocabulary task cards as an example of vocabulary activities
Teach Starter

36. Do a dictionary dig

Send your students on a scavenger hunt … in the dictionary! Exposing kids to the thousands of words in our language is both inspiring and fun. Download the free task cards below.

Learn more: Dictionary Dig

Reading poetry also helps students expand their vocabulary. Check out these must-share poems for elementary school and middle and high school.

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