Vocabulary Strategies: Review and Games
When reviewing, teachers might consider one of the following activities:
Based on the classic game show 25,000 Pyramid, this activity allows students to
review vocabulary words or concepts that have been previously learned in class. First, the
teacher chooses six to ten terms to place into slots on a PowerPoint or paper “pyramid”.
Then in class, students pair up with a partner to play the game. One student faces the
pyramid board, while the other faces away from it. Starting with the lowest dollar amount,
the student facing the board gives the other student clues about the bottom words. If the
student facing away from the board guesses the word correctly, they receive the points, or
dollar amount for that word, and continue on to the next word. If the student is unable to
identify the word, he or she can say “pass” and the pair moves on to the next word in the
pyramid. When time is up, the pairs add up how many dollars the receiving partner has won.
The teacher can then have the partners switch roles and go through the same procedure with
a new game board. This game works well as a review activity. It can also be adapted by
allowing students to develop their own pyramid boards based on information being learned in
BINGO might also be used as a vocabulary review game. The teacher first prepares a
list of 20 – 25 terms. In class, students choose 16 of the terms and place them in random
order on a four-by-four board. The teacher then calls out the definitions, or examples of the
words. If the student has the word on his or her board, he or she marks the term. When the
students get four terms covered in a row, column, or diagonal pattern, the student calls out
BINGO! He or she must give the word and definition back to the teacher in order to win
BINGO. This helps the students show their knowledge of the terms, while it also serves as
an oral review for the rest of the class. This activity can also be modified by changing the
size of the board.
Crossword puzzles are an easy, fun way for students to review vocabulary terms or
concepts. In order for the puzzle to serve as a meaningful review for the students, teachers
should use definitions or examples as the clues. If students complete the puzzle without
looking at their notes, this helps them to recognize which terms they understand and which
ones they may not yet be able to identify. Crossword puzzles can be used in class or as a
homework review sheet.
Magic Squares is another great activity that can be used in class or as a review sheet for
homework. On a worksheet, students will match the number of the question (which includes
a definition) with the correct answer in the box. To check their answers, the students will
add up all of the numbers across a row or down a column. If their answers are correct, all
the numbers, across or down, will equal the same sum. There are a few different “magic
square” templates based on the number of terms that are being reviewed.
Memory game cards can be used for a variety of purposes. Teachers might ask
students to match the terms and the definitions for a quick review. Students can also play a
traditional game of memory, where all of the cards are turned face down. Then, two to four
players try to match the definitions to the terms. When a player gets a match, he or she
removes the cards from the playing area. The player with the most matches in the end wins!
The cards might also be used to play Taboo / Password, or to complete a concept sort.
This activity allows the students to use their creativity, think more deeply about the
terms, test their classmate’s knowledge, and incorporates writing into a review activity.
Teachers can create riddles for the students to answer or they can allow the students to
write their own riddles using the vocabulary terms and concepts being studied in class. If
students write their own, teachers should probably model the process first. After a few
riddles have been written by each student, they might share their products with the class, or
the teacher could collect the vocabulary riddles, compile the best ones, and have the students
use them as a review in class or for homework. Teachers might also post riddles around the
room in “Room Raider” fashion as a review activity.
Adapted from the famous television game show, Password is played with groups of
two students competing against one another. One player is given a vocabulary term. That
person then gives a one word clue to their teammate. If the teammate is unable to guess the
word, the other team follows the same procedure. The process continues until one of the
players is able to guess the word. This forces the class to think critically about what one
word would represent the vocabulary term. It also helps the teacher understand whether or
not students truly understand the words by the clues they give to their teammates.
Pictionary works well with groups of four to six players. Each group divides into two
teams. Then, one person from each team chooses a vocabulary term to draw. The artist
sketches the term, while the other players on the team try to identify the word. If the
players guess the word in the time given, they receive one point. Teachers might adapt the
game and also require teams to provide the definition or an example of the term to score or
in order to receive a bonus point. Teams alternate drawing vocabulary words until all of the
terms are gone or until time runs out. The team with the most points wins!
Similar to Password and adapted from the traditional card game, this activity allows
students to use clues to guess vocabulary terms. Students work in pairs to review the
words. Without looking at it, one player puts a card up to his or her forehead. The second
player gives the first player clues about the word. He or she then tries to guess the term.
The players then switch roles and repeat the process.
This simple review activity can easily be used as a class warm up. As students walk
in the door, they are given one vocabulary term on a card. When class starts the teacher
calls out a definition. The student who has the corresponding term stands up and says
“That’s Me!” Each student might be given a different term or more than one student can
have same term. In that case, more than one person would stand up when the term is called.
Zip Around is another fun, competitive activity teachers can use to review vocabulary
terms. First, the teacher prepares slips that have various terms and definitions on them.
One card might read “I am an encyclopedia. Who has a book of maps and facts about those
maps?” One student will start by reading his or her card. Then the student who has the
answer to the first student’s card will respond by reading the answer (“I am...”) and reading
the next definition. The activity tests students’ knowledge of the terms and also allows them
to review as they listen to their classmates. Zip Around can be used competitively if the
teacher records the amount of time it takes the class to get through all of the cards. The
class can compete against their own score, or the times posted from other periods.