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4 Activities for Reviewing Vocabulary

September 28, 2012

Practice makes perfect—reviewing new vocabulary can be fun!

Teaching new vocabulary is all well and good, but without review and practice, it’s almost impossible for students to remember all those new words. Simply studying and memorizing the words and definitions can be pretty boring, which makes the new vocab harder to remember. By making vocab review as fun as possible, you will help your students stay interested, and they will retain the new words far more effectively. If you missed my post on teaching new vocabulary, check it out first, then use the following techniques to review the vocab on subsequent days.

1. Hotseat

This is a classic! If you know a variation different from the one I’ll list here, feel free to leave a comment explaining the changes you make below. We’d love to hear your version!

  • First, divide the students into two teams.
  • Have one student from each team sit at the front of the class, in two chairs that face their classmates (with their backs to the board).
  • Tell the two students that they’re in the “hotseat.” You will write a word on the board, and students from their team can yell out descriptions of the word. They must not use gestures, give the first letter, or say the actual word.
  • Write one word on the board and let the chaos begin! The first student to guess the word correctly gets a point for their team.
  • Choose another member from each team, and repeat. Once all the students have had one or two turns (or you’ve run out of words), add up the scores. The team with the most points wins!
  • If neither student in the hotseat can guess the word, you can give them a hint such as the first letter or a clear description.

Warning: This game can get very loud, but it is guaranteed fun!

Teaching Tip

When students know that this game will be played the following day, they are really motivated to study so that they don’t let their team down.

2. Matchup

If you used this technique for teaching vocab, this is a great way to reuse the slips of paper that you cut up.

  • If you haven’t already done so, print out a list of words and definitions (one list per small group or pair), and then cut all of the words and definitions into slips of paper and mix them up. Don’t forget to keep a master list for yourself for easy reference.
  • Distribute the words and definitions to the groups/pairs. For lower levels, separate the word slips and the definition slips into two piles to make it a bit easier.
  • Tell students to match up the words and definitions. To make it more competitive, the first group/pair to correctly match everything up wins!
Teaching Tip

While this activity takes a long time when students are initially learning the words (and guessing), it is very quick as a review activity, and may not be worth all the time you spend cutting up the slips of paper if you didn’t use them to teach the vocab too. Note that you can also use these slips for activities 3 and 4 below!

3. Concentration – Activity A

  • Use the slips of paper from activity #2, and arrange them face down on the table for each pair or small group of students.
  • Students take turns turning over any two of the cards. If students choose correctly (they turn over a word that matches the definition or vice versa), they can keep the pair of paper slips. If they choose incorrectly, they must turn the slips over again and place them back in the same place.
  • Once all the slips have been matched up, students should add up how many pairs they have. The student with the most matches wins!
Teaching Tip

This popular game is also known as “Memory.”

4. Concentration – Activity B

  • Draw a grid on the board with 20 squares (5 × 4). Write the numbers 1–20 in the top left hand corner of each square. Have a master list for yourself that you can refer to with ten words and ten corresponding definitions filled into the grid (one word or definition per square, with the order mixed up).
  • Divide the students into two teams. Ask one student from team A to choose one box. Write the word or definition in the center of the box. Have that same student choose another box. Fill in that box too.
  • If the two boxes create a match (word + definition), leave the words written in the boxes and give that team a point. If they don’t match, erase both boxes and repeat the process with a student from team B.
  • Continue until all the boxes are filled in. For the last pair of boxes, make it more challenging by having that team member guess the last box (i.e., if the word is chosen, write the word in the box, but then the student must tell you the definition without seeing the last box, and vice versa). The team with the most points wins!
Teaching Tip

Most boards will clearly show which spots have been erased, thus making it easier for students to remember which numbers have already been chosen. To make it more challenging, when setting up the board, run the eraser over the center of each box before starting the game.

I hope these activities will make it easier for your students to remember new words. Have fun!


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Comments (12)

Ekene (Guest)

Great work!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks, Ekene!

Carissa (Guest)

I LOVED hotseat. I don't do memory (or concentration) much, but I do have a bunch of random vocab games here: http://eslcarissa.blogspot.com/2012/12/14-different-vocabulary-methods-how-to.html I use for English. I'd have to say my go to is flyswatter, though I do like using rhymes too!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks for sharing your ideas, Carissa! The Snowball Fight activity would be great for this time of year.

David B.(Teacher)

I'e found that a variation of hotseat works well with more advanced classes. Have the students form a circle. Instead of writing the vocabulary word or idiom on the board, write it on a piece of paper. Hand the piece of paper to one of the students and have him or her describe it to the others. The first one to guess correctly wins and gets to give clues for the next word. No teams, no points, but just as competitive.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

I like your variation, David! I've often used paper slips this way, but didn't think of doing it for hotseat. Good idea!

You could also have each student take a turn at describing a word on the slips of paper (to ensure that all students participate), and the student who guesses correctly keeps the slip. The student with the most slips at the end of the game wins!

Reply to Comment

Sehar Choudhary(Guest)

i like your ideas keep it up!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Glad you like these suggestions, Sehar!

Danilo Alpizar(Guest)

Great ideas!!!!!!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

I'm so glad you like them, Danilo!

Lucila Romero(Guest)

Great idea!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks, Lucila! I hope you and your students enjoy trying these activities.

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