The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

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Chalkboard with Vocabulary Words and Games

Vocabulary Journals and Games for Your Classroom


Chalkboard with Vocabulary Words and GamesVocabulary instruction is directly linked to reading comprehension and word knowledge. On average, students are expected to add 2,000 to 3,000 words to their vocabulary every year! (Effective Vocabulary Instruction by Joan Sedita.) Students need multiple and engaging opportunities to practice and learn new words. It takes multiple exposures over time before students can apply new vocabulary.
To keep your vocabulary lessons fresh and fun, try using vocabulary journals and playing vocabulary games. These vocabulary activities help students learn and apply new words and build their vocabulary.

Vocabulary JournalsWriting journal

One resource that every student should have is a vocabulary journal. These journals serve as a reference for students to use in their writing throughout the school year.

Journals should follow a set pattern so students can look back at previous notes and understand what they wrote. This procedure always worked well for my students, and the picture at the end is always a popular incentive. (If you teach ELLs like I did, the picture is an absolute necessity.) Provide each student with their own journal.

  1. Introduce a word: write itVocabulary journal entry
  2. Define the word: definition
  3. Discuss the word: adjective, verb, noun
  4. Apply it: use it in a sentence/draw a picture

Book cover of a word a day vocabulary bookVocabulary journals pair nicely with Evan-Moor’s A Word a Day vocabulary instruction. Each week provides four new vocabulary words and definitions along with examples of how each word is used. In addition, day five offers an informal assessment for the words learned that week.

Vocabulary Games and Activities

Games and interactive activities are another opportunity to reinforce learning. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Eye Spy

Provide students with a list of names to search for in a story. Award points to individual words with criteria such as:

  • Longest word
  • Words with the most consonants
  • Words with the most vowels
  • Words with the “silent e” rule

2. Matching Antonym and Synonym

This activity works best on 3 x 5″ cards. Ask students to pair up words with their antonym/synonym such as:

  • Large/small
  • Smooth/coarse
  • Combine/separate

Students playing vocabulary charades in classroom3. Charades

Call up a group of students or an individual and give them a card with one of your weekly vocabulary words on it. Without speaking, have them act it out for their classmates to guess.

How do you teach vocabulary in your classroom?



Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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