the vocabulary challenge - words with two vowels
French,  French GCSE,  German,  German GCSE,  MFL Skills Development,  Teaching Tips,  Uncategorized,  Vocabulary Learning

Vocabulary Challenges for the Language Classroom

vocabulary activities for the language classroomFUN VOCABULARY ACTIVITIES FOR PRACTISING,REVISING AND LEARNING VOCABULARY IN THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM

It is important to encourage students’ vocabulary development so that they have the necessary lexis available to them to succeed in communicating and understanding any language. This can be incorporated into most lessons through subtle vocabulary learning activities.

How can you teach vocabulary in the classroom?

One way of implementing this strategy in the language classroom is to incorporate a number of opportunities for students to reflect on words they already know, have exposure to words they should know, as well as have the opportunity to use and recycle this vocabulary in ‘authentic’ conversations and interactions. Below, you will find a number of fun vocab activities for language teachers to teach vocabulary with the sole purpose of aiding language learners to improve vocabulary learning. 

Ways To Practice Vocabulary

Vocabulary challenges are a brilliant way to get students focused in the language classroom and showcase their knowledge. In addition, these fun vocab activities also allow learners to acquire even more knowledge from their peers. Students will have the ability to reflect on what they know if they work individually. However, if they work in pairs and in small groups, they will also learn new words. Combining this reflection, as well as exposure to new words regularly, along with recycling this vocabulary in classroom activities and homework will aid language learners to have more vocabulary to communicate.

The purpose of this post is to collate a variety of fun vocabulary challenges that you can easily use in your language classrooms, at any time of the academic year. The vocabulary development activities are perfect for the French, German and Spanish Key Stage 3, 4 and 5 classrooms in England, but also ideal for English Language Teaching classrooms, as well as any other language teaching classroom anywhere in the world for all language learners!

Try the fun vocabulary challenges and vocabulary activities for revision below today. Which ways to practise vocabulary do you use in your language classrooms? Please feel free to add any ones that we should be using in our language lessons in the comment section below! 

AWESOME VOCABULARY ACTIVITIES AND VOCABULARY CHALLENGES FOR THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM

1. How many words can you write with ‘two’ vowels?
This fun vocab activity could be easily adapted for all of your classes and it could be used regularly, but with some adaptations to keep things fresh.

For example, change the ‘two vowels’ to ‘three vowels’, or the ‘vowels’ to ‘syllables’ etc.the vocabulary challenge - words with two vowels

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2. Words Beginning with ‘A’ 

How many words can you write down beginning with any letter of the alphabet? To make this vocabulary challenge topic-related, add a theme that the students must stick to, i.e. Food & Drink or Holidays.

vocabulary challenge starter

Timed vocabulary activities can often be the most fun, as students have a sense of competition and often enjoy trying to compete against their peers.

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3. A-Z Challenge

I love this vocabulary activity, as it can be used with all levels for pretty much any topic. Food and drink springs to mind, as well as lexical groups, such as: ‘verbs’, ‘adjectives’ and ‘nouns’. I am working on the topic of health and safety with my current ESOL students and I tried this out with them. Would you have thought of ‘fire extinguisher’ for ‘F’?!

a to z vocabulary starter challenge activity

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4. What am I thinking?

 I first came across this vocabulary activity in my first year of teacher training, when the Head of French used it as a plenary at the end of her lesson on restaurant food and drink. The year 8 students loved it and the vocabulary challenge got the students really involved in recalling the words that they had come across in the lesson. This teacher used the activity as a plenary with the whole group, but I think it would also work well in small groups, using the same principle.vocabulary activities for the language classroom

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5. Beat The Teacher 

beat the teacher vocabulary challenge

This activity is an oldie but a goody and can be used to develop vocabulary and pronunciation for all students. This is one version of ‘beat the teacher’ with a competitive element, but there are also many variations of it.

Create a PPT slide with imagery of vocabulary items in a grid. The students and teacher start off with 10 points. Point to an image on the grid and say it in the target language. If you say the word that represents the image correctly, then the students must repeat it. If you say a different word, or pronounce it incorrectly, then students must remain quiet.  If anyone repeats the wrong word, then the teacher gets a point, if all students stay silent the class gets a point.

Tip: Get a reliable student to keep a tally chart of the marks. To decide on a winner, you could set a time limit, or the first ‘team’ to get to a certain number of points. If the class wins, you could let them out a minute early, or give them another type of prize.

I find this kind of vocabulary practice activity works really well to get whole groups engaged and it’s an excellent way of drilling with a competitive edge.

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6. Word Association for Vocabulary Learning

language-classroom-word-association-vocabulary-challenge

I tried this creative vocabulary challenge out today with my English students and they loved it! The students got extremely inventive with the vocabulary that popped into their heads, in association with the previous one. You can use this as a stand-alone activity to get learners thinking of words they know. However, you could also combine it with a writing or speaking activity, too.

Instructions:

1. Teacher says a word, i.e. ‘facile’ and adds to whiteboard
2. Students must say the first related word they think of, i.e. ‘l’anglais’
3. Repeat until you get bored!

This vocabulary builder was used as a starter to a creative writing activity. So, if you have time, give the students a sentence starter, such as: ‘It was the first time that I was in a new country, when suddenly someone tapped me on the back…’ You can choose a sentence starter that fits with your class and their level. However, this worked so well and really got my students writing spontaneously, but creatively at the same time. Win-win I’d say!

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7. Hangman To Teach Vocabulary

When you think of fun vocab activities, then this might seem like a really simple and ill-thought out vocabulary challenge. However, try it out. It’s a brilliant idea and gets students so motivated. You can play as a whole class, perhaps as a plenary, or you can put students into small groups with mini whiteboards to compete against each other in small teams. If you are unsure on how to play hangman, check out the rules in the link.

Instructions:

  1. Choose the theme
  2. Put students into small teams with one mini whiteboard, pen and rubber
  3. Students choose who begins, and then go clockwise.
  4. Students compete against each other in the small teams
  5. Keep a tally-chart and get the winners from each team to compete for an overall winner. This might seem like a really simple and ill-thought out vocabulary challenge. However, try it out. It’s a brilliant idea and gets students so motivated. You can play as a whole class, perhaps as a plenary, or you can put students into small groups with mini whiteboards to compete against each other in small teams. If you are unsure on how to play hangman, check out the rules in the link.////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
8. Pass It Forward Vocab Activity

I do love a good vocabulary activity with a competitive element! This one’s got both of these combined.

Resources required:

  1. magnetic whiteboard and 1 x magnet per group
  2. students in groups of 4-5 seated in rows facing the whiteboard
  3. 10-15 images per group, related to whichever topic you would like to focus on

Instructions on the Pass It Forward Vocabulary Challenge

1. Sit students in groups of 4-5 in seated rows of tables facing a whiteboard
2. Beforehand, print out 10-15 images related to whatever topic you like on the back table.
3. Describe something from one of the images, i.e. ‘das blaue Hemd’.
4. The person on the back table must choose correct image and pass it forward to the person nearest whiteboard to stick on the whiteboard.
5. First team to put it on correctly and sit down again wins.

NOTE: If others disagree as they are passing it forward, they can pass it back and try again. Also, you can get students to move one chair back after each round. Watch out though, this option can be hard to manage!

CHALLENGE, get a stronger student to read out words, phrases or sentences, instead of the teacher.

9. What am I talking about? for Vocabulary Learning

This fun vocabulary activity, is perfect for revision, as it’s no-prep (always a winner with me), gets all students in the group involved in thinking of words, categorising them in a preferred order, it gets others guessing and recalling vocabulary verbally, leading to improved pronunciation.

fun vocabulary revision activity

Instructions:

1. Put students into groups of 3-4
2. Give each group 2 ‘secret’ topics/themes that you have pre-prepared
3. Students work in their groups to prepare a list of 10-15 topic-related vocab in order of ‘difficulty’. The word they feel is most difficult, but relatd to the theme gets awarded 15 points, then 14, 13, 12 etc
4. After prep time, go around each group with a different student revealing a new word from the list each round, starting with hardest
5. The other groups must identify the topic, for every guess they make incorrectly, that team loses a point.
6. Award points based on value of the word the ‘winning’ team gets right

spanish stickersAs a reward, winners from these vocabulary challenges can be awarded merits, or as an extra little touch, a sticker. These are some of my favourites:

french language reward stickers mfl open eveningsFrench Reward Stickers
Spanish Reward Stickers
German Reward Stickers
Italian Reward Stickers
English Reward Stickers

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10. Jumbled Words With A Twist

Resources Required:
TWO OPTIONS:
More Prep –
Worksheet with scrambled words and clues
Low Prep – Get students to create their own individual ideas on post it notes or slips of paper + blue tack to stick them up after

Instructions:

  1. Whichever option you go for on this vocabulary revision activity, either you or the students have to produce a list of scrambled words related to your topic, or any vocab related to the course.
    i.e. GAUR: _ _ _ _
  2. Alongside this scrambled word with space for the correctly spelled word next to it, add 1-3 clues in target language

For example, each jumbled word could be presented as follows:

GAUR: _ _ _ _

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11. Lexical Lists for Vocabulary Learning

Vocabulary Activity Resources Required: A4 Paper, pens
When To Use: anytime, but works well at the beginning of a topic to assess current knowledge (add to it as you go through a topic), as well as at the end as a revision activity.
Instructions:
1. Give students A4 paper to fold it into four equal sections
2. Supply a topic, i.e. ‘food & drink’, ‘holidays’ etc
3. Label each section with: ‘VERBS’, ‘ADJECTIVES’, ‘NOUNS’ and ‘USEFUL PHRASES’
4. Ask them to list as many lexical items as they can per category
5. Go around classroom, compare ideas and add to lists

It’s a no-prep vocabulary practice activity and really effective in revising vocabulary and sharing ideas! Not ideal to teach vocabulary though.

lexical lists vocab practice ideas

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12. Word Acrostic to Teach Vocabulary

Vocabulary Activity Resources Required: Whiteboard, whiteboard pen, exercise books/paper, pens
When To Use: anytime, but works well at the beginning of a topic to assess current knowledge (add to it as you go through a topic), as well as at the end as a revision activity.
Instructions:
1. Supply a topic, i.e. Travelling, Education, Health etc and write the word down one side of the whiteboard
2. Students must write one-topic related word which starts with each letter of the word on the whiteboard, i.e.
Trip
Ride
Aeroplane
Voyage
Excursion
Lake
Look
Indicate
Norway
Gallivant
3. Share ideas at end. Award a point for the most original related-word (class can decide), as well as one for the most letters in a word / overall.

whiteboard acrostic vocabulary practice idea
It’s a no-prep vocabulary practice activity and really effective in revising vocabulary and sharing ideas!

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13. 5 Words Vocabulary Practice Activity

Vocabulary Activity Resources Required: Paper, pens and whiteboard
When To Use: Anytime. But, it works well at the beginning of a topic to assess prior knowledge, in the middle to assess learning, as well as at the end as a vocabulary revision activity.

Instructions:

1. Share a broad topic with learners (clothes, school or travel etc)
2. Explain you have 5 brilliant topic-related written words on your paper and they must try to guess the 5 you have by writing them on their paper.
3. Read out each of your 5 words and students cross out if they have them. Award a point for each correctly guessed and spelled word.
4. Students share their ideas and you can add these to the board under their lexical category for students to note down to add to their previously noted down  topic-related vocabulary.

EXTENSION: Students can put each of their 5 words into a sentence underneath, once they have written 5 words they are happy with.

It’s a virtually no-prep vocabulary activity and extremely effective in revising vocabulary and sharing ideas and checking pronunciation and spelling too.

vocabulary to assess prior knowledge - 5 words

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14. Just 3 Words

Vocabulary Practice Activity Resources Required: Exercise books, A6 strips of paper and pens
When To Use: This vocabulary activity is perfect for testing and practising vocabulary anytime during the year and it combines the skill of writing too.

Instructions:

1.Ask each member of the class to choose a broad topic from what you have learnt recently (i.e. food, clothes, school etc)
2. Put students into pairs and explain that their neighbour must write down three words, directly related to the topic you have chosen in list form.
3. The student must take the list and write a short story, dialogue or essay (45, 90 or 150 words) and they must include those three words and stay topic-related.
4. Once finished, get students to peer assess.

CHALLENGE ELEMENT: Give students a choice of grammatical challenges (use past simple, the third person singular or prepositional verbs) to incorporate too.

It’s a virtually no-prep vocabulary activity and extremely effective in helping students to be creative with a topic and vocabulary, with the help of just 3 words.

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Try some of these vocabulary activities out in your classroom this week and let me know how you have adapted them. Do you have any other suggestions for additions?

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2 Comments

  • Kiara

    I love the A-Z vocab challenge. I’m a soon to be teacher that has been trying to think of new ways to help my students retain/practice vocabulary more, and the A-Z challenge sounds like just what I was looking for. Thank you for sharing!

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