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Games to Expand Vocabulary

by Susan Deschel
  • Learning new vocabulary takes lots of practice to absorb fully. Using vocabulary games to reinforce new words can help students with practice that eventually leads to mastery. Crossword puzzles, matching games and word searches are old methods that have a high rate of success and can be played online, offline or between groups of students.
    Vocabulary games reinforce new vocabulary.
  • Online Crossword Puzzles

    Crosswords are a classic way to expand vocabulary. Online vocabulary builders contain thousands of clues and words to easily create crossword puzzles for home or classroom use. They can also be used to create a blank crossword template. Choose a topic for the crossword, such as city life, clothing and fashion, or dining and finance. A category called "Air," for example, can include corresponding clues such as "time of year for warm breezes," "process of flying" and "this makes bubbles." Use 12 to 15 words for each puzzle and develop a clue for each word, numbering each clue and placing the correct number of boxes in the crossword with its corresponding number.
  • Picture and Word Matching Games

    Select a category such as "animals" or "weather", then choose vocabulary that fits the theme. For "animals," you might include "goat," "frog," or "horse," for instance. Write a definition of the word on the back of the card along with a sentence that uses the word. Draw a picture to correspond with each word on a separate card. Place the word cards in one pile and the picture cards in another. Spread the picture cards out across a table. Students can select a word card randomly and match it up with its corresponding picture (or visa versa). This game is good for second-language learners and younger students but can also be useful for advanced vocabulary words in content areas such as math, science and history.
  • Word Searches

    Word searches are fun and engaging ways to learn spelling while becoming familiar with new vocabulary. Begin by developing a list of six to seven vocabulary words such as "hen," "goose," "orangutan" and "eagle" for younger students, or science terms for older students, such as "metaphase," "prophase" and "telophase." Create a grid and place each letter of the vocabulary word inside the grid, distributed vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Surround the words with randomly scattered letters to fill each box with a letter. Students exercise their spelling skills to search for the words, circling them as they find each word.

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