Mr and Mrs Social Studies
A Teaching Blog
8 Social Studies Vocabulary Activities You Must Do with Your Students
Social studies vocabulary activities.
Do you ever feel like you do the same vocabulary activities over and over again and want to try something new? Or do you feel like you don’t really have the time in the school day to prioritize social studies vocabulary activities? This blog post will give you 8 social studies vocabulary strategies to help you succeed! Even better, many of these activities are perfect for distance learning !
Social Studies Vocabulary: The Struggle
Before we get into the activities, there is some surprising, but important information to share that can change our perspective about how we teach vocabulary. While we were doing some research about the best vocabulary strategies to use in social studies, we found this 2018 study from Hannah Chai and V. Lee Welz from Wright State University . This article featured a chart that demonstrated how social studies textbooks expose students to approximately five times the number of words as each of the other core subject areas. For specific examples, take a look at the chart below.
In our teaching experience, we have found trying to do too much or teach too much content, and in this case, too many vocabulary words, does not yield lasting results. Instead of trying to teach all of the vocabulary words shared in a unit or in a textbook, select the most important 20-25 or so words to emphasize more. This is especially important as it takes at least 10 exposures to a word for students to understand it well enough to use it, as cited by Aimee Alexander-Shea in this study .
Social Studies Vocabulary Strategies
Quizlet is an amazing free resource to help students with social studies vocabulary… simply create a set with your vocabulary words or find a set that already exists and duplicate it. Quizlet is also a great tool to help students practice vocabulary independently. We especially recommend using the flashcards and playing the Match game or Quizlet Live with your students for engaging practice.
The Frayer Model is a popular graphic organizer tool that can help students build their vocabulary. This vocabulary chart works great on a handout or for Google Slides. Traditionally, the Frayer Model has students incorporate the definition of a word, an image or picture of it, and both examples and non-examples of the word. In our own teaching, we have found that a variation with the official definition, a definition in the student’s own words, an example sentence, and an image or picture are a better fit. You can take a closer look here for a sample version on Google Slides.
Semantic mapping, or a word sort, is a wonderful way for students to make connections between different vocabulary words, especially with social studies vocabulary. In this activity, students can sort words into a chart with some basic categories, such as people, places, inventions, religions, or any other categories that make sense. For a more advanced option, students can decide which categories they would like to create. You can do this on a Google Doc or handout, but our favorite method is using a Google Slideshow with moveable tiles that students can drag into the correct column!
Synonyms + Antonyms
One way to improve our understanding of vocabulary is with synonyms and antonyms. We create self-grading Google Forms with a variety of synonyms and antonyms of different vocabulary words. This helps students make connections between different words, as well as helps them understand the nuance between certain terms.
One of our favorite social studies vocabulary activities is using related words. In this type of activity, students look at three sample words that are somewhat related to one of their vocabulary words and must figure out which vocabulary word they are referring to. It is a fun mystery challenge for students and makes for a great game or board race, in addition to a simple activity on Google Forms.
Fill in the Blank
You probably have already used fill in the blank vocabulary activities, as these are commonly provided by textbooks. This type of activity usually contains sentences with a word missing, and students must decide which vocabulary word makes the most sense to fill in the blank. This is a simple activity to set-up (we use self-grading Google Forms) and can help students with context.
Historical Fiction Journal
A fun writing assignment that showcases student creativity is a historical fiction journal! We love using these as impromptu activities in many units, and they also work great for vocabulary. In a historical fiction journal, students take on the role of a historical figure that lived during the time period they are studying. You can have students incorporate as many vocabulary words as they can in their response. This is one of the most advanced strategies listed here as students must see if they can fit the word in the context of what they are writing about.
While it is pretty simple, one of our favorite social studies vocabulary activities is some good old-fashioned bingo! This can also be a perfect activity for a Friday or on a transition day between larger activities. Simply have students fill in their vocabulary words onto a bingo grid (5X5 chart with a free space in the middle). Then, read aloud the definitions, and students must figure out which vocabulary word you are referring to.
Social Studies Vocabulary Word Wall
A list of social studies vocabulary activities would not be complete without including a word wall! Displaying a word wall in your classroom can be a great visual reminder of the vocabulary you are studying. While word walls take many forms, we prefer using a version with the word, the definition, and an image.
Now that we have shared all about how we teach vocabulary to our students, we encourage you to give these activities a try! You can either create your own activities following the framework we have described or check out the versions we already have created here ! We currently have versions for most of the Ancient Civilizations curriculum, and will start work on US History versions this summer!
Are you looking for some new teaching ideas to engage your students in your social studies class? If so, you’ll love our FREE guide: 5 Creative Projects to Ignite Student Engagement in Your Social Studies Class . These activities have both printable and digital options and can work for any social studies subject!
Latest on Facebook
Latest on Instagram
Latest on Pinterest
Secondary Social Studies Diversified
Social studies education teacher resources for diverse learners
Vocabulary Strategies: How to Teach Social Studies Effectively
Why are research-based vocabulary strategies important in social studies.
Teaching vocabulary strategies is essential in all classes. Without it, students in a social studies classroom will struggle to comprehend the content.
Like any other skill that we need to know in life, students need to be taught vocabulary terms using a well-thought-out and systematic approach. Providing students with vocabulary strategies they can use to learn terms will improve their vocabulary reading strategies and vocabulary comprehension strategies.
It’s well established that vocabulary is the most powerful predictor of reading comprehension. These skills improve with an understanding of vocabulary.
Below you will learn about beneficial vocabulary strategies that are straightforward, can be implemented in your social studies classroom tomorrow, and are research-based.
Vocabulary Strategies: #1 Think-Pair-Share
At the start of a new instructional unit, teachers can have students use the think-pair-share method:
- First, students will get a topic or a set of vocabulary words. They will think about the word’s meanings independently.
- Next, students will pair up with a partner to share their ideas.
- The class will discuss as a whole group.
When teaching the bill to law process, introduce the lesson with a question. For instance, ask who is involved in the law-making process. Or relate the concept to the students’ lives by asking how they’ve been personally affected by local, state, or federal laws.
Most importantly, giving students the space to communicate and hear the concepts can improves their vocabulary.
Vocabulary Strategies: #2 Rating System
Students can use a rating system to evaluate their understanding of words they’ll encounter during the upcoming lesson.
In this activity, the teacher provides students with a list of words. Students indicate next to each word their level of comfortability.
- A ‘one’ if they can use the word in a sentence and understand its meaning without any help.
- A ‘two’ if they have heard of the word and understand it but would not be able to describe it without support.
- A ‘three’ if it is a new word they do not know (Alexander-Shea, 2011, p. 95–103).
This rating system can help inform the teacher’s instruction.
Vocabulary Strategies: #3 Presentations and audio
Third, a recent study took a closer look at how PowerPoint presentations can improve teaching. It’s beneficial for teaching the pronunciation of new words, providing direct instruction with visuals, and creating review games (Nam and Trinh, 2012, p.15–22).
Social Studies teachers in the United States have access to PowerPoint and Google Slides, making it an easy and inexpensive method to teach new vocabulary content. Google Slides gives teachers the flexibility to add audio to their presentations. This way, students can hear the word and definition being pronounced. In addition, teachers can add read-aloud to any digital vocabulary activity.
I work with students who typically don’t read at grade level, so it’s been a lifesaver to include vocabulary activities with a read-aloud option. Adding review activities to my teacher toolbox has improved my effectiveness as a teacher. Try out the free vocabulary activities (BOOM Card deck) and see how easy they are to include in your classroom instruction!
Vocabulary Strategies: #4 ideas for vocabulary Word Wall
A word wall can help reinforce vocabulary development throughout a lesson.
In a research report, authors Jackson and Narvaez quoted Stahl and Fairbanks from 1986, “Word walls serve as visual scaffolds and are a classroom strategy used to reinforce reading and language arts instruction. Research shows a strong relationship between student word knowledge and academic achievement.” The article written by Jackson and Narvaez (2013) describes the five steps needed for a teacher to create a word wall specific to the content they teach.
Step #1: Organize the vocabulary words with real objects and/or pictures
- Spend time planning how to create the word wall. Gather words previously taught. In addition, include words from previous grade levels that may appear again and include new concepts.
- The terms are paired with real objects or pictures.
- The words establish patterns, which helps determine how to construct the word wall. The purpose is to organize the material in the unit, similar to a graphic organizer.
Step #2: Students create a worksheet that mirrors the vocabulary word wall
- Have students add to their organizer throughout the unit with the information taught from the word wall.
Step #3: construct the word wall
- Hang the word wall in an area of the classroom where all students can access it.
- Word walls are usually built across many days and finished as a unit nears completion.
- “A lesson has the most potential when the construction of the word wall aligns with the lesson, and students are allowed to participate in the construction process.” (Jackson and Narvaez, 2013, p. 42–49). In other words, s tudents are more likely to use the word wall and understand the vocabulary words used when they help create it.
Step #4: Build the word wall together as a class
- After each concept is taught, the class adds meaningful objects, pictures, or student-written definitions to the wall.
Step #5: Students complete engaging vocabulary activities
- Completing the handout helps make sure that students always have a copy of the word wall.
- Teachers can take a picture of the completed word wall to give students a visual reminder.
- Plus, teachers can keep this picture to help plan the unit again in the future.
- The word wall should include easy-to-read titles, student-created work, and visual supports. According to Nam (2010), visual representations (like pictures and drawings) can promote vocabulary retention when students explain the terms in their own words.
Vocabulary Strategies: #5 Marzano’s Six-Step approach
Marzano’s six-step process includes: explain, restating, showing, engaging, discussing, and playing. This vocabulary comprehension strategy helps teach vocabulary using explicit instruction. Marzano has been leading the research of vocabulary best practices for years. His goal is to provide activities for students to help them understand new vocabulary terms in-depth.
- First, provide students with a description or give an example. Examples can include telling a story about the term, showing a video, finding and creating pictures that help explain the word, and using a PowerPoint.
- Next, have students restate the explanation from step #1 in their own words. This should include the student’s ideas, not the teachers. Examples can include journaling or sharing information with their neighbor.
- Then, ask students to create a picture, drawing, or symbol to represent the terms.
- In addition, provide activities for students to test their knowledge of the words. Examples can include having students highlight prefixes, suffixes, and root words, sort or classify words based on characteristics using a graphic organizer or add to their notes.
- Have students discuss the vocabulary terms by explaining their pictures from (step #3), explain new information they’ve learned about the terms, and clarify any misunderstandings.
- Finally, students can play games that review the terms. Examples can include Pictionary, Charades, Jeopardy, Catch Phrase, BINGO, the fly swatter game, etc.
Don’t have the time to make any games? No problem! Use interactive vocabulary activities like these to help students retain the instruction by using task cards and BOOM Cards!
How can research-based vocabulary strategies help struggling readers?
- Vocabulary development occurs when used as a tool to support learning instead of something that takes time away from learning.
- “When students encounter real-life problems, they must be able to sort through large masses of materials and create viable options or solutions and identify and use appropriate criteria for evaluation” (Larson, L. C., & Miller, T. N., 2011, p. 123).
- These skills improve with an understanding of vocabulary. As Shannon describes, “It is well established that vocabulary is the most powerful predictor of reading comprehension” (pg. 18).
- In conclusion, gaining vocabulary skills can help students interpret the world around them.
Beneficial vocabulary strategies include the think-pair-share method to help students communicate about their vocabulary terms with other classmates. Students can use a rating system to self-assess their understanding of terms. PowerPoint presentations or Google Slides with audio can help students learn the pronunciation of words and to provide direct instruction. Help provide a meaningful experience with vocabulary instruction with the use of a word wall. Finally, Marzano’s six-step process can help students learn vocabulary terms. By assisting students in explaining, restating, showing, engaging, discussing, and playing with vocabulary terms, you’re sure to help grow students’ understanding of social studies content.
Would you like to receive a FREE lesson to teach your students about the Federalists AND see how we utilize these vocabulary strategies in our lessons? Sign up below!
Alexander-Shea, Aimee (2011). Redefining Vocabulary: The New Learning Strategy for Social Studies. Social Studies, 102(3), 95–103. https://doi-org.wgu.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/00377996.2010.509371
Jackson, J., & Narvaez, R. (2013). Interactive Word Walls. Science and Children, 51(1), 42–49. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login. aspx direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1033687&site=eds-live&scope=site
Larson, L. C., & Miller, T. N. (2011). 21st Century Skills: Prepare Students for the Future Kappa Delta Pi Record, 47(3), 121–123.
Nam, J. (2010). Linking Research and Practice: Effective Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary in the ESL Classroom. TESL Canada Journal, 28(1), 127–135. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct
Nam, T. T., & Trinh, L. Q. (2012). Powerpoint as a Potential Tool to Learners’ Vocabulary Retention: Empirical Evidences from a Vietnamese Secondary Education Setting. Journal on English Language Teaching, 2(4), 15–22. Retrieved from http://search.
Shannon, J. (2019). Supporting student vocabulary development. Practical Literacy: The Early & Primary Years, 24(2), 18–20.
Leave a reply cancel reply.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Looking for Something?
I’m thrilled you’re here! Hi, I’m Alicia.
I got my Bachelor of Science in Education at BGSU, where I received my Intervention Specialist License (Mild to Moderate). Since then, I’ve earned my Master of Education in Instructional Design. I’ve been working as a social studies intervention specialist at the high school level since 2015!
I provide small group instruction to students in my special education classroom and co-taught settings. Every classroom has students with diverse learning needs, so my goal is to make differentiated resources appropriate for all students in grades 6-12. I’m looking forward to growing together!
- Curriculum & Instruction
- Personal Story
- Primary Sources
- Professional Learning
Teach Vocabulary for Social Studies Using Systematic Instruction
Teachers frequently offer students multiple ways to learn vocabulary: vocabulary cards, quizzes, drawing, matching activities, and even games. By varying the activities, they hope to keep students engaged with the words.
The problem with this approach is that the activities require the same level of word knowledge. Systematic instruction is based on the premise that we cannot teach every word that students will need to know, nor can we expect students to move from little or no knowledge of a word to the highest level of understanding about a word. By organizing our vocabulary activities, we can provide a more systematic approach to vocabulary instruction and help students progress from little or no knowledge about a word to being able to use the word in writing and speech.
Subscribe to the blog to get more articles like this one sent to your inbox each week.
In a previous blog, I proposed two principles for effective vocabulary instruction in the social studies classroom. That post focused on the first principle—cultivating word curiosity and consciousness as a foundation for vocabulary learning. This article focuses on the second principle: providing systematic instruction.
Systematic instruction leads students through levels of word knowledge
Researchers suggest that learners typically move through levels of word knowledge. At the lowest level, we encounter a word we have never seen before. If we’re diligent, these are the words that send us to the dictionary. In the next level, we encounter a word that looks familiar. We may be able to use context or word parts to make an informed guess about the word, but we lack the knowledge to understand the word completely. In the third level of understanding, we encounter a word that we’ve seen or heard before and we are comfortable with our understanding of the word when it’s given to us in context; however, we avoid using the word in our speaking and listening. Finally, at the highest level of understanding we not only understand the word, we can offer synonyms, antonyms, and definitions, and use it in our speaking and writing.
Systematic instruction is the intentional use of vocabulary exposure and activities to move students from the lower levels of vocabulary knowledge to higher levels of vocabulary knowledge. Students need an introduction to words before diving into multiple, deeper meanings.
My colleague, Tina Heafner, and I conceptualized systematic instruction as a framework that gave us a bigger purpose for those activities by systematizing which types of activities are used in what order. In Targeted Vocabulary Instruction , we posed five instructional routines for systematic vocabulary instruction:
1. Grouping and Sorting
Activities like word sorting or building word webs help students link words to larger concepts. For example, linking words that students may not know to larger concepts gives them a framework for learning new words. Broad understandings such as being able to sort “production” and “distribution” under the larger concept of socialism forms a critical foundation for moving towards deeper understanding.
2. Mapping and Visualizing
This routine includes activities that help students create a visual representation or link with the words. For example, “genocide” becomes much more memorable when linked with a visual image. Place the word and an image in the countries where it has taken place within the last century and students begin to deepen their associations with the word.
3. Comparing and Contrasting
As we teach vocabulary, we want to think about ways to teach more than one word at a time. We also need to teach definitional nuances that show shades of meaning. For example, how would you arrange the following from words that connote freedom to words that show the lack of it: serf, slave, tenant, prisoner, debtor, owner, lender, master, nobility, emperor? Rather than a single, correct response, the goal is to help students think about what words mean and what they do not as they begin to pick up the subtleties of words in and out of contexts.
4. Defining and Associating
Certainly there are times to teach very specific definitions. For many students and within specific contexts, “plutocracy” will require a firm definition. The five instructional routines aren’t meant to avoid those instances when a specific definition is needed. At the same time, we want to help students build generative strategies for word learning. That is, we want them to recognize that while they might not know what plutocracy means, there is a pattern (-cracy) that is common to many other words (e.g. democracy, aristocracy). Associating words with common patterns will help students generate their own understanding of words.
5. Reviewing and Playing
In the constraints of classroom time, we often overlook this vital component of vocabulary. If students need multiple exposures to a word (perhaps as many as 12 exposures to a word, according to some estimates), then we need to offer them opportunities to make those words part of their lexicon.
Social studies is a discipline of numerous words and concepts. Vocabulary instruction has been a cornerstone of social studies for a century or more. Offering systematic instruction provides an intentional frame for moving students from no knowledge of a word to higher levels of understanding about words, and to generate their own knowledge of words.
Targeted Vocabulary Instruction, Tina Heafner & Dixie Massey. Social Studies School Services, Culver City, CA.
Subscribe to the blog to get more articles like this sent to your inbox each week!
Dr. Dixie Massey is the program coordinator of the reading endorsement at the University of Washington, where she also teaches courses in the Department of Language, Literacy, and Culture. She has published in such journals as Social Studies and the Young Learner , The Reading Teacher , and The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy . She is co-author of the curriculum series, Comprehension Strategies for World History and U.S. History in the Social Studies ; Targeted Vocabulary Instruction , and the Seeds of Inquiry series published by Social Studies School Service .
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
How can we help you?
5 Strategies for Teaching Social Studies Vocabulary Words in the Classroom
Are you looking for planning resources that are easy to use, minimal prep, and ready at your fingertips? I have created a planning document for upper-elementary social studies teachers , and you are definitely going to want to go check it out! 👀 I have pacing, linked resource ideas, vocabulary, and essential questions ready to go for you. If you teach in the upper elementary classroom, there is something for you in that document. What are you waiting for? Go check it out HERE !
Planning out vocabulary instruction can get redundant, and it is always nice to switch things up to keep students engaged! I’ve created 5 strategies for helping you when you are teaching social studies vocabulary words.
1. Word Walls for Social Studies Vocabulary
This is a classic for a reason. Keeping the vocabulary terms in sight is a great way to remind students to use them. It’s a creative way to make classroom decor. Students can “right brain” their vocab by making pictorial associations before adding to the wall.
2. Semantic Mapping Vocabulary Words
Perfect for showing students how different terms work together, like if you’re studying government or geography. This is an activity that can be done as a whole class, or independently. You can create a semantic map using your word wall with a bulletin board placement and yarn. You can have students review vocabulary or have this set up for your fast finishers. If you use notebooks you can have a section for vocabulary and mapping for students to review at their leisure.
3. Review Puzzles for Social Studies Vocabulary
Make reviewing vocabulary fun with puzzles. It’s a great way to review a lot of vocab at once. Puzzles can be premade for fast finisher activities. It can be set up and sent to subs for fast plans in an emergency. You can divide by units or build an ongoing set of options to review everything before testing at the end of the year. I have 120 vocab terms set up in a ready-made puzzle for you here in my store. You can even search my puzzle packs by specific topics if you’re looking for small-batch puzzles to try.
4. Indirect Use
Encourage students to use the vocabulary terms outside of the specific lesson. Include yourself! Work it into your language wherever possible. The more your students hear the more their brains will make the association to its definition. It becomes more than just a vocabulary list to memorize and makes it real-life applicable.
5. Play Detective
Provide your students with a list of the vocabulary terms they are to find. Students will then hunt for the words in their reading and write definitions or examples as they find them. You can work on this together for struggling readers, or provide texts where the terms will be bolded or highlighted. You can branch out to some related articles or videos and have students complete a worksheet or KWL-type notetaking sheet to learn their vocabulary. This can become a great game for students to break up vocab term monotony.
Acquiring new vocabulary doesn’t have to be a chore for students. Using a couple of quick strategies like these are simple ways to bring new life to the process of learning new vocabulary. I’m always looking for ways to spice up learning vocabulary, so if you have any other fun options feel free to share!
Did you miss it? It’s okay, I got you! I know you are overwhelmed with planning engaging lessons across all your subjects, so don’t make social studies become another pain point for you. Download your Social Studies Teacher Shortcut: A Year of Lessons in ½ the Time to get all your planning organized and in one place.
5 Activities for Using Task Cards During Your Social Studies Class
5 Tips for Teaching Current Events in Upper Elementary Classrooms
How to Use PowerPoint in the Classroom to Step Up Your Social Studies Lessons
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
More blog posts
How to Save Time Lesson Planning for Classroom Instruction
Lesson planning was honestly one of the scariest parts of starting out as a new
Making Social Studies Lessons Relatable: Engaging Students in the World Around Them
Social studies is a subject that has the potential to ignite curiosity and foster a
Teaching the Industrial Revolution: Tips that Keep Students Engaged
The Industrial Revolution marked many changes in our modern world. Sure it was 200 years
Websites for Career Research: 5 Sites for Empowering Upper Elementary Students
As children progress through their educational journey, it becomes increasingly important to introduce them to
Engaging Back to School Activities for Social Studies
The start of school is coming up (where did the summer go?) and it will
Make Social Studies Relatable to Students with These 4 Tricks
Like so much of school, it is important that we make sure our lessons in
I help teachers learn how to navigate the social studies classroom to become effective teachers without losing their work-life balance. I live in Tennessee with my husband and son. I’m a former upper-elementary teacher and history nerd, but I currently work full-time as a maid for my one-year-old! Okay, okay, I’m only kidding, but I am a work-from-home mom who is soaking up every minute before returning to the classroom!
See What's New on Teachers Pay Teachers!
Copyright 2020 | Laken Bowlin | All Rights Reserved
(502) 895-9500 | [email protected]
Vocabulary Development in the Social Studies Classroom
Written by jwright.
Vocabulary Development is the core of understanding critical content. Social studies teachers know well that, despite the views of many students, the discipline is not just about dates, names, and places. Social studies is built on historical and cultural context; relationships between people, places, and events; and the repeating patterns that explain these events throughout history and in the present day. These critical concepts form the basis for key vocabulary development in social studies. By focusing instruction on the core concepts of social studies, the repeating patterns, causes, effects, and relationships, teachers can better prepare students to learn the facts of social studies topics, and ensure that they are able to independently comprehend new content on their own.
It is an ongoing challenge for social studies teachers to address this exponentially increasing volume of information. Regardless of the level of the course or the ability of the learner, vocabulary provides the essential building blocks for the remaining content. Teachers understandably must be more selective about the topics they address in the classroom. Some content will not be covered. As we become more selective with the content we teach, we must also become selective with the skills upon which our curriculum is based.
College and Career Readiness Skills require students to be able to decode words in context. This is a skill that is essential to success in social studies as well as life. We need to prepare our students through vocabulary instruction to be able to understand and apply increasingly challenging texts. It is challenging to get students to reach the levels of application, synthesis, and evaluation essential to higher-order thinking if they do not have the essential vocabulary as the foundation. By focusing on key conceptual vocabulary in the social studies classroom, teachers can teach students not only course-specific vocabulary, but also language and skills that they will use in other disciplines and areas of life.
Taking more time at the onset or at an important juncture in the learning process can help students internalize and solidify new ideas, allowing for momentum when it really counts. This idea of slowing down to speed up is applied to literacy integration. By identifying key repeating concepts across the social studies and by intentionally integrating those same concepts again and again as new topics for instruction emerge, teachers will realize that the time taken to step aside from the forward motion of delivery of content will, in the end, not slow down instruction. Instead, it will increase the pace at which students are able to grasp content and improve their retention of information over the long run. Identifying key repeating concepts throughout social studies courses provides an opportunity for vertical articulation that will help students see the connections between all social studies courses.
What does vocabulary instruction and practice look like in your social studies classroom?
One of the difficulties of planning for vocabulary experiences is to know which high- frequency, multiple meaning vocabulary/concepts students will need direct instruction on (isolationism is an example) and to identify the appropriate vocabulary strategies to use when low-frequency, content-specific terms arise during a unit of study (deficit spending is an example). It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of vocabulary laid out in state and national standards. In social studies, teachers and students are required regularly to grapple with dates, names, and places. It is difficult for both the teacher and the student to know what is the most important and what is key to deep understanding. Unlike the detailed content of National and State standards, the Common Core standards ask that social studies teachers focus on the skill of “determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.” Approaching the teaching of vocabulary as a skill rather than as the teaching of specific words will ensure that you plan and implement vocabulary instruction in a manageable way that aids both your curriculum and student learning, rather feeling like you are adding one more thing to your curriculum.
As you review the content standards, ask yourself: Which ideas are so important that if students do not understand them, they will have difficulty comprehending the content? These terms make up the conceptual foundation for vocabulary study and are generally supplemented with a second tier of vocabulary that add dimension to the base.
Vocabulary can be broken into three tiers: Tier 1-Basic Vocabulary, Tier 2-High Frequency/Multiple Meaning Vocabulary, and Tier 3-Low-Frequency, Context-Specific Vocabulary.
Tier 2 words are those words students will encounter across a variety of domains, such as in other contents, conversations, and literature. These words require direct instruction because they increase a student’s reading comprehension, writing, and oral language skills. These include words like democracy, artifact, and civilization . Asking students to think critically with these types of wo rds will facilitate long-term connections and meaning. Conversations and planning in cross-curricular teams can help identify words that students will use in multiple disciplines. For example, both a social studies teacher and an ELA teacher may find that the word “tolerance” is an applicable word for both classes; by discussing how the word is used in their classrooms and how it fits into the broader curriculum for each teacher, they may be able to have a common approach to both instruction and application of the word in a way that will allow students to gain greater understanding of the word.
Tier 3 words are words that a re domain specific. These are words that a student would likely encounter in a specific content, sport, profession, association, etc. For instance, normative theory, détente, and polis are words students will encounter in the domain of a specific social studies course.
The national standards focus on two core sets of standards for instruction – thematic and disciplinary. Let’s look at one thematic standard to see how we dig to the core, as well as continuing concepts for key vocabulary development across topics.
Power, Authority, and Governance : Social studies teachers should possess the knowledge, capabilities, and dispositions to organize and provide instruction at the appropriate school level for the study of power, authority, and governance.
This thematic standard connects concepts across the social science disciplines and establishes a repeated pattern for understanding social science in the content of specific periods in time. If students have been well prepared for the study of social sciences at the middle and high school level, one might assume that the concepts of power, authority, and governance would be well understood and could simply be applied and discussed in the context of new learning. However, simply ensuring that students can generally describe power in the broad context of social studies is not sufficient. Within each content area, “power” has a unique meaning and level of importance. This is even more true across multiple social science disciplines. Take time below to create meaningful definitions for power in each of the specific disciplines noted.
The distinctions are clear, and each unique definition in context helps determine deep and rigorous understanding of power within distinct disciplines. By addressing these key concepts as foundational vocabulary to unlock understanding, social studies teachers provide better access to and understanding of the core content of the subject area.
The similarities of vocabulary in context are as important as the distinctions. When you dig into a single social studies discipline, the value of conceptual vocabulary becomes clear. Let’s work through an example. Use the chart below to note your understanding of power in the context of historical periods.
Your notes above should demonstrate that, while each period in history has its specific causes, events, impacts, and implications for the future, there are common threads within key social science concepts that continue over time. Understanding of those common threads increases students’ abilities to grasp new content quickly, apply what they have already learned, and make sense of the patterns and development of human society. In order for students to be able to apply these key concepts, conceptual vocabulary presented as the common themes of social studies must be integrated into ongoing study.
Follow us so you don’t miss key strategies that can help support your students in their vocabulary development!
Subscribe for updates.
Get the latest posts, and stay up to date with the latest strategies to keep kids reading at a higher level.
- Skip to main content
- Skip to primary sidebar
Timesaving Teacher Tools
Free yourself from hours of planning
Translating Ancient History: 7 Favorite Middle School Vocabulary Activities
November 5, 2023 · In: Ancient History
I was driving home on a recent Sunday and listening to my favorite Cleveland Browns on the radio.
Now I’ve been watching football and photographing high school football for a lot of years. I don’t know the names of each offensive formation, but when I see the formation, I can anticipate the play and the photo.
And herein lies my problem.
The vocabulary of football are the names of each of those formations. When the radio announcer tells me the Browns are in the “I Formation,” I have no idea what that looks like.
No matter how many times my husband tries to explain it to me, it just doesn’t stick.
Do your Students Struggle with Vocabulary?
You know your students must master vocabulary to comprehend content text and conversation.
You know that consistent exposure to vocabulary improves your students’ mastery.
And you know that using a variety of approaches addresses your students’ multiple learning styles while minimizing drill and kill drudgery.
That’s why I created a mix of Vocabulary Activities for my students.
Here are 7 of my favorite.
1) Paper Flash Cards
The first activity for any topic I teach is to have students learn the key vocabulary terms.
My students make flashcards from 3 x 5 index cards.
I project the vocabulary terms on the board and students write each term on a separate index card.
Students comb through our text for the definitions which they write on the reverse side of each card.
Since we used binders for organization , students hole punched their flash cards and attached them to the center binder ring with a book ring .
Students easily use their flash cards at any time to quiz themselves. I encourage (and test) students to know the definition given the term and vice versa.
One of the bonuses of paper flash cards is that students can create two piles of flash cards – the pile they know and the pile they’re still learning. They can see the “I know it!” pile grow during the unit and focus effort on the terms they’re still mastering.
2) Digital Flash Cards
When my daughter was in grade school, she benefited from making digital PPT flash cards.
She typed the vocabulary term on one slide and the definition on the next slide. She easily toggled back and forth to quiz herself and she could move slides to the bottom of the document as she mastered them.
Digital flash cards have definitely become a bit more flashy in recent years. My school unfortunately was not 1:1 so I was unable to harness the power and fun of digital platforms.
However, if you have access to technology here are the most popular sites to check out.
Most have free offerings and offer various individual and game modes.
3) Presentation/Word Wall Slides
The day after my students created their vocabulary flash cards, I went through each term using PPT slides I created.
It was of utmost importance to me that my students “see” these abstract vocabulary terms. So I searched and searched for photos and graphics to provide that important visual support to my students.
Lucky for you, I’ve shared those in my Looking to the Past Vocabulary Resources.
And it’s so easy to post PPTs (or Google Slides) to Google Classroom or to print slides for your Word Wall.
4) Speak the Vocabulary – Constantly!!
Vocabulary is the short hand of any subject.
The whole purpose of learning vocabulary is to use it and to understand it appropriately in writing and conversation.
No game or fun vocabulary activity is going to enhance student mastery if you’re not using vocabulary ALL THE TIME during class.
And even more importantly, your students need to use vocabulary terms whenever they’re asking a question or offering a comment.
Every time your students hear a vocabulary word in context, they score one more opportunity for mastery.
5) Reading Informational Text
Whatever text you use should be rich with the vocabulary terms you’re teaching.
As students read, quiz them on the terms and relate them to other terms they know. Once again, every time your students hear a vocabulary word in context, they get one more opportunity for mastery.
My textbook was 50 miles wide and 1/4″ deep. So I ultimately wrote my own Informational Text Passages rich with key vocabulary.
6) Task Cards
I use task cards as combination flash cards and mini presentation slides. Each vocabulary term is comprised of three cards – one card with the vocabulary term, a second card with the definition, and a third card with the same photo I used for my Presentation/Word Wall Slides.
The manageability of task cards makes them super flexible and great for bellringer warmups or end of the class quickie time fillers.
I always have a couple of sets of current task cards handy for a quicky activity when we have extra time or for early finishers.
Here are a bunch of options for you when you use task cards:
- Anticipatory Set – Have students match each vocabulary term with its definition and photo as a unit introduction. Repeat at the end of the unit so students can demonstrate growth and mastery.
- Stations – Match each vocabulary term with its definition and photo as a review or anticipatory set.
- Whole Class Match – Provide each student with one card and instruct them to move around the classroom to find their partner cards.
- Memory – Use any combination of the task cards to play Memory.
- Early Finishers – Put adhesive magnets on the back of each card. Place the cards in random order on a magnetic board and have students rearrange cards to match each vocabulary term with its definition and photo.
- Go Fish – Mix up the cards and deal each student 6 cards. Take turns drawing cards with the object of collecting a matched set of vocabulary term, definition, and photo.
- Form a Group – Higher Level Thinking – Provide each student with a different vocabulary or photograph card. Have them work together to form groups based on some common feature of the vocabulary terms. Have each group explain their reasoning. For example, riverbed, source, mouth, levee, Huang He, and Chang Jiang may group together to form the “Rivers of China” group.
7) Hexagonal Thinking
Hexagonal Thinking is one of my favorite activities. It’s probably one of the best opportunities for students to elevate their thinking to make connections.
This video explains how hexagonal thinking can be implemented.
Why do I love Vocabulary Activities?
FLEXIBLE – Vocabulary Activities are easily planned into a lesson as bell work or for learning stations. But just as often, I pull vocabulary activities out for a small group review or for an intervention specialist to use with students. And when I have an Early Finisher or extra time at the end of class, Vocabulary Activities are among my Grab and Go options.
PRINT AND DIGITAL ACTIVITIES COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER – I think it’s important to have a variety of print and digital options for maximum flexibility. Some activities are just better implemented in print! And when the internet is down or logging into a digital platform eats up precious minutes at the end of class, I’m not stuck.
Where can I find Vocabulary Activities?
My Looking to the Past Vocabulary Resources include 5 different activities:
- Hexagonal Thinking Puzzle
- Crossword Puzzle
- I Have, Who Has
- Presentation/Word Wall Slides
Click HERE for a complete look at my Ancient History Vocabulary Activities.
Add them to your teacher toolbox today!!
And if you’d like 7 additional Vocabulary Activity ideas , check them out HERE!
you’ll also love
Reader interactions, leave a reply cancel reply.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Teach Mesopotamia Empires to Discover Timeless Lessons of History
Timesaving Teacher Tools © 2024 · WEBSITE DESIGN BY LAUGH EAT LEARN
- August 12, 2022
Find it Fast
More from the blog.
Free Bill of Rights Foldable
Create a mini-book with your students over the Bill of Rights and the Principles of Government . Your students can make this book in under 10 minutes, and then you can use it for review with a variety of games.
Connect on Instagram
COPYRIGHT © 2019 • SOCIAL STUDIES SUCCESS • ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DESIGNED BY LAINE SUTHERLAND DESIGNS
- Word Roots #1 Beginner
- Word Roots #1 Intermediate
- Word Roots #1 Advanced
- Word Roots #2 Beginner
- Word Roots #2 Intermediate
- Word Roots #2 Advanced
- Word Roots #3 Beginner
- Word Roots #3 Intermediate
- Word Roots #3 Advanced
- Word Roots #4 Beginner
- Word Roots #4 Intermediate
- Word Roots #4 Advanced
- Word Roots #5 Beginner
- Word Roots #5 Intermediate
- Word Roots #5 Advanced
- Word Roots #6 Beginner
- Word Roots #6 Intermediate
- Word Roots #6 Advanced
- Word Roots #7 Beginner
- Word Roots #7 Intermediate
- Word Roots #7 Advanced
- Word Roots #8 Beginner
- Word Roots #8 Intermediate
- Word Roots #8 Advanced
- Word Roots #9 Beginner
- Word Roots #9 Intermediate
- Word Roots #9 Advanced
- Word Roots #10 Beginner
- Word Roots #10 Intermediate
- Word Roots #10 Advanced
- Word Roots #11 Beginner
- Word Roots #11 Intermediate
- Word Roots #11 Advanced
- Word Roots #12 Beginner
- Word Roots #12 Intermediate
- Word Roots #12 Advanced
- 112 Prefix Words by Alpha
- 112 Prefix Words by Grade
- 32 Suffix Words by Grade
- 32 Suffix Words by Alpha
- SEQU SECU #1
- SPECT SPIC #1
- MISS MITT #1
- CEPT CIP CAP #1
- VERT VERS #1
- STA SIST STIT #1
- REG RECT RIG #1
- PEND PENS POUND #1
- Alphabetical-All Subject & Themed Puzzles
- English Language Arts
- English Literature
- General Interest
- Health, Nutrition & PE
- Holidays & Celebrations
- Performing Arts & Fine Arts
- Science & Math
- Social Studies & History
- All themed Crosswords
- All themed Fill-in-the-Blanks
- All themed Definition Match
- All themed Word Search
- All themed WordPuzzles
- Alphabetical: all word lists A to E
- Alphabetical: all word lists F to O
- Alphabetical: all word lists P to Z
- Animals, Birds, Insects
- Business, Economics
- English, Language Arts
- Foreign Language, ESL, ELL, LEP
- Health and Physical Education
- History, Social Studies
- Holidays, Celebrations
- People, Groups
- Vocational Education
- GRE Test Prep
- Word List by Title
- Word List by Author
- 17 Novel Puzzles
vocabulary review games social studies
Resource types, all resource types, vocabulary review games social studies.
- Rating Count
- Price (Ascending)
- Price (Descending)
- Most Recent
Gilded Age Progressive Era Bingo Game and Social Studies Vocabulary Review
Canadian Government Vocabulary Review Game . Magic Circle. Social Studies .
5th Grade Social Studies Teacher Resources - Social Studies Curriculum Bundle
Catch Phrase Custom Disc Template Vocabulary Review Game (Mac/PC Template)
4th Grade Social Studies Teacher Resources - Year Long Social Studies Bundle
Landforms Vocabulary Review Slap-It! Card Game
Maps and Globes BINGO Game : Social Studies Game 3rd 4th 5th Grades
5th Grade Social Studies -Thinking Like a Historian Teacher Resources Set
Westward Expansion BINGO Game : Social Studies Game 3rd 4th 5th Grades
Vocabulary Review Games for Google Drive and PDF
- Google Drive™ folder
European Explorers Game : BINGO Social Studies Game 3rd 4th 5th Grades
Economics BINGO Game Social Studies Game 3rd 4th 5th Grades
5th Grade Social Studies -Three Worlds Meet-Native American Teacher Resources Set
Social Studies Games : BINGO: Bundle of Bingo Games
5th Grade Social Studies - Three Worlds Meet - Exploration Teacher Resources Set
5th Grade Social Studies - New England Colonies Teacher Resources Set
5th Grade Social Studies - Middle Colonies Teacher Resources Set
Social Studies (US History) Vocabulary Activity Games for the Year BUNDLE!
5th Grade Social Studies - U.S. Government/Constitution Teacher Resources Set
Social Studies Dominoes - 8th Grade Government Milestones Review
5th Grade Social Studies - Southern Colonies Teacher Resources Set
Exploring Economics Teacher Resources Set - 4th Grade Social Studies
World History Review Games | EOY 6th Grade Social Studies Ancient Civilizations
Our Federal Government Teacher Resources Set - 4th Grade Social Studies
- We're hiring
- Help & FAQ
- Student privacy
- Terms of service
- Tell us what you think
- My Storyboards
- Log In / Register
Social Studies Vocabulary Worksheet Templates
Customize social studies vocabulary templates.
If you're assigning this to your students, copy the worksheet to your account and save. When creating an assignment, just select it as a template!
What are Social Studies Vocabulary Worksheets?
In social studies, kids are bound to come upon new concepts and terms with every new topic. It is vital for teachers to build in vocabulary instruction and teach vocabulary in their lessons. This will enhance comprehension of complex non-fiction texts and their overall understanding of the subject, and worksheets can provide a helpful resource for students to reference throughout the unit.
Why Are They Important and How Are They Best Used?
Using word maps or vocab worksheets is an excellent way to engage the class in researching the definition of a new word as well as thinking about the term or concept in a variety of ways. Learners can further their retention by illustrating and providing examples for each new word. These graphic organizers, Frayer models, and flashcards are perfect for this. Teachers can edit them and add beautiful, content-specific art to customize their worksheets for each new topic.
Building a Strong Foundation
At the start of a new unit or lesson, worksheets can serve as a valuable tool for building a strong foundation. By introducing new words and concepts, these worksheets help kids become familiar with the vocabulary they will encounter throughout the unit. This shared vocabulary creates a common language, allowing for better comprehension and meaningful discussions.
Reinforcing and Reviewing
Regularly revisiting previously learned words is essential for long-term retention. Our handouts provide opportunities for learners to reinforce their comprehension of words and concepts. By engaging in activities that require matching definitions to words, filling in the blanks, or creating sentences, students consolidate their knowledge and solidify their grasp of the new terms. To create an immersive learning environment, teachers can display a studies vocabulary word wall in the classroom, showcasing key terms and their definitions, serving as a constant visual reference for students to reinforce their learning and expand their vocabulary.
Independent Practice and Self-Assessment
These handouts can be assigned as independent practice activities, empowering students to take ownership of their learning. They enable learners to work at their own pace, review independently, and assess what they've learned. Through self-reflection, students can identify areas where they need additional support or further study.
Promoting Collaboration and Discussion
Collaborative learning is a powerful strategy in education. Our handouts can be incorporated into group activities or collaborative exercises. Children can work together to complete the worksheets, discuss the terms, and reinforce their understanding through peer interaction. Engaging in dialogue and sharing ideas fosters a deeper comprehension of the subject matter.
Assessing Knowledge and Identifying Gaps
Formative assessments are crucial in evaluating the mastery of vocabulary words. By reviewing completed worksheets, teachers can gauge comprehension, identify areas where they may need additional support or instruction, and tailor future lessons accordingly.
Maximizing the Effectiveness of Vocabulary Worksheets
- Clear Instructions and Expectations : When assigning any type of worksheet, it is important to provide clear instructions and expectations. Clearly outline the purpose of the worksheet and specify the desired level of detail and accuracy in responses.
- Varied Activities and Exercises : To cater to diverse learning styles and preferences, incorporate a variety of activities and exercises in the worksheets. Mix and match different question types, such as matching, fill in the blanks, multiple choice, and open-ended questions. This variety will keep students engaged and ensure they approach the assignment from different angles.
- Contextualization and Real-Life Connections : Help kids understand the relevance and practicality of new words by contextualizing the terms. Relate terms to historical events, current issues, or personal experiences. By making connections to real-life scenarios, students can grasp the significance of the words and their application beyond the classroom.
- Integrating Technology and Multimedia : Leverage the power of technology and multimedia resources to enhance the impact of digital worksheets. Utilize digital tools, interactive websites, videos, and images to supplement the worksheets and provide a more immersive learning experience. This integration of technology stimulates interest and makes the learning process dynamic and engaging.
- Collaboration Between School and Home : Parents play a vital role in supporting their child's education. Teachers can strengthen this partnership by sharing vocabulary lists and worksheets with parents. This sharing of resources allows parents to be informed about the terms their child is learning and enables them to provide additional support at home.
Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom
Encourage parents to extend the learning experience beyond the classroom by suggesting supplementary activities and resources. Provide recommendations for books, documentaries, museum visits, or community events that relate to the topics. This collaboration between home and school creates a seamless environment for continuous learning.
These worksheets are valuable tools for enhancing students' comprehension of key terms and concepts. By incorporating them into classroom instruction and engaging parents in the learning process, educators can foster a deeper comprehension and equip students with the knowledge necessary for academic success and active citizenship. To further enhance the learning experience, consider integrating social studies pictures to create visually appealing worksheets that engage and captivate students while they explore the new terminology.
Tips for Planning Vocabulary Worksheets
- Start with a Social Studies Picture: Incorporate visual elements by including a relevant picture. This can be an image of a historical figure, a map, or a significant event. The picture will capture students' attention and provide a visual context for the words.
- Choose Relevant Vocabulary Words: Select words that align with the topics being covered and are appropriate for the grade level. Include terms that are essential for social studies and foster cross-disciplinary connections.
- Utilize Word Walls and Vocabulary Cards: Create a word wall in your classroom where you prominently display the vocabulary words. This visual reference will serve as a reminder for the class throughout their learning journey. Additionally, consider creating vocabulary cards that students can use for review and practice, including the word, its definition, and a related image.
- Explore Digital Options: Embrace technology by incorporating digital options for your worksheets. This can include interactive activities, online quizzes, or digital flashcards. Digital resources provide a dynamic and engaging learning experience.
- Provide Context and Connections: Ensure that the words are presented in a meaningful context. Relate the words to real-life scenarios, historical events, or current issues. Encourage students to make connections between the vocabulary and their own lives, promoting deeper understanding and relevance.
- Engage Students through Writing: Include writing exercises that allow students to apply the vocabulary words in meaningful ways. For example, ask students to write a short paragraph explaining the significance of a historical figure or to create a story using multiple vocabulary words.
- Encourage Creativity: Empower students to create their own social studies vocabulary worksheets. Assign them to design a vocabulary worksheet for their classmates, incorporating relevant vocabulary words and engaging activities. This activity promotes deeper learning as students take ownership of their education.
By incorporating these strategies and utilizing a cross-disciplinary approach, you can create worksheets that engage, promote comprehension, and foster a love for learning in the classroom. Teaching and practicing social studies vocabulary will become more dynamic and impactful, providing students with the necessary resources, ideas, and important information to succeed in their studies while fostering a sense of community and creativity among students in the classroom.
More Storyboard That Resources and Printables
- What is Vocabulary?
- Bell Ringer Template
- Visual Vocabulary Activities
- Vocabulary Activity for United States
- Frayer Model Templates
How to Make Social Studies Vocabulary Worksheets
Choose one of the premade templates.
We have lots of templates to choose from. Take a look at our example for inspiration!
Click on “Copy Template”
Once you do this, you will be directed to the storyboard creator.
Give Your Worksheet a Name!
Be sure to call it something related to the topic so that you can easily find it in the future.
Edit Your Worksheet
This is where you will include directions, specific images, and make any aesthetic changes that you would like. The options are endless!
Click "Save and Exit"
When you are finished, click this button in the lower right hand corner to exit your storyboard.
From here you can print, download as a PDF, attach it to an assignment and use it digitally, and more!
Frequently Asked Questions about Social Studies Vocabulary Worksheets
How can social studies vocabulary worksheets be adapted for different grade levels.
Explore ways to modify the complexity of vocabulary words and the types of activities based on the age and abilities of the students. Unlock your creativity and design a compelling social studies vocabulary worksheet using the available templates, which include a range of storyboard graphic organizer examples.
What are some creative ways to incorporate student ideas into social studies vocabulary worksheets?
Teachers can provide opportunities for students to contribute their own vocabulary word suggestions, design activities, or create visuals for the worksheets. This encourages student engagement and ownership in the learning process.
How can social studies vocabulary words worksheets be adapted for children with different learning styles or special needs?
Teachers can modify the format or presentation of the worksheets to accommodate different learning styles, such as providing tactile elements for kinesthetic learners or using visual aids for visual learners. For children with special needs, individualized modifications and accommodations should be made as necessary. Incorporating a social studies graphic organizer can provide students with a structured visual framework to organize and comprehend complex concepts, making it an invaluable tool for enhancing their understanding of the subject matter.
Try 1 Month For
30 Day Money Back Guarantee New Customers Only Full Price After Introductory Offer
Learn more about our Department, School, and District packages
- Thousands of images
- Custom layouts, scenes, characters
- And so much more!!
Create a Storyboard
- Grades 6-12
- School Leaders
Black History Month for Kids: Google Slides, Resources, and More!
30 Meaningful Vocabulary Activities for Every Grade
These activities are the definition of fun!
Learning new words is like adding to your writing toolbox. Your writing becomes so much more interesting and engaging when you have more tools available. Check out these fun and engaging vocabulary activities for kids in grades K-12, and give your students the equipment they need to build their wordsmith skills.
1. Write vocabulary short 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: Lucky Little Learners
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 his/her 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/Upper Elementary Snapshots
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: Teach Starter
4. Sketch up some 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: Southern Fried Teachin’
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: Now Spark Creativity
6. Play a game of Pop!
Write vocabulary words on cards or craft sticks and place in a paper bag. Write the word Pop! on three to five cards or sticks and add them to the bag as well. To play, students will take turns drawing cards or sticks out of the bag, reading the word and giving the definition. If they correctly define the word, they keep the card or stick. If not, it goes back in the bag. If they pull the word Pop! they must return all their cards or sticks to the bag and start over. The player with the most cards or sticks wins.
Learn more: Pop/Not So Wimpy Teacher
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: Teachwriting.org
8. Create vocabulary strips
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: Teaching Fourth
9. 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/Lit in Focus
10. 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/Upper Elementary Snapshots
11. 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.
12. 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 and to help remember the meanings.
13. 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: Reading and Writing Haven
14. 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: Digging Deeper
15. 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: The Sassy Apple
16. Fill in words from A to Z
This vocabulary game is fun and challenging, and you can play it at 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/Lit in Focus
17. Try Flip for vocabulary activities
Forever a Teacher at Heart/Twitter
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.
18. 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
19. 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: RAFT/Teachingwriting.org
20. 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.
21. 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/Upper Elementary Snapshots
22. 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: Lit in Focus
23. 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/The Sassy Apple
24. 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 . In the classroom, use these paint strips to make crafts for a bulletin board. Working in a virtual environment? Have kids print clip art strips at home or use the images to make slides or digital worksheets.
Learn more: Around the Kampfire
25. 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 fake 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.
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: Teaching Talking
27. Roll a die for vocabulary activities
Choose a vocab word, then have the student roll a die ( these virtual dice are handy ) to see which activity they get to complete.
Learn more: Roll a Word/Lucky Little Learners
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: Vocab Acrostic/Upper Elementary Snapshots
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
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 by Peter Reynolds on Amazon
Reading poetry helps students expand their vocabularies. Check out these must-share poems for elementary school and middle and high school .
Plus, get all the latest teaching tips and ideas when you sign up for our free newsletters .
You Might Also Like
Just 23 Totally Perfect 4th Grade Anchor Charts
Add these beauties to your repertoire! Continue Reading
Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. 5335 Gate Parkway, Jacksonville, FL 32256