I incorporate Greek and Latin roots into my vocabulary activities in my upper elementary language arts classes. When students know common roots, their comprehension in all academic areas improves, and vocabulary explodes. I have a handful of vocabulary activities that promote recall. My favorite activity is something I call word trains. Students need to build up a bank of roots vocabulary before we can play. Once the group has a base knowledge of words, I introduce the word trains to them. Word trains help show connections. After students have a little practice, they start to get competitive with each other to see who can create the longest train. Of course, beating the teacher is the best reward!
To play word trains, students look for two known word parts in a word. They keep one known word part and identify a new word that incorporates the same root plus a new portion. The new root stays and is combined with another known section… and so on. The goal is to keep the train going as long as possible. There are several options for using this type of activity. Students can list the word pairs underlining the connecting parts. You can add a layer to the list where students define the known root parts. Teachers could give the starting and ending word (most challenging) to see if students can get from point A to point B. This last option reminds me of a vocabulary version of the Kevin Bacon game.
While word trains is my favorite activity, I have several other review games that I think are helpful to students and activate critical thinking too. I think all teachers will agree. Students find more success when educators use activities that require more than straight memorization.
3 Favorite Vocabulary Activities
- Word Trains: CLICK HERE to download the free activity plans.
- Heads Up style notecard game: This activity incorporates movement too! Give students 3-5 blank notecards. Students write a single vocabulary word on the front. They write a definition and/or situation where the word might be used on the back. Students circulate around the room holding their card up to their forehead. The vocabulary word should face out. A partner looks at the word and describes the word using its definition or place where the word might occur in daily life. The student holding the card guesses the word. After taking turns sharing words, students trade cards. They move to a new partner. By trading cards, the group is practicing with a variety of words. Students are not practicing with their original words only. (To read more about how to play with students, CLICK HERE.)
- Illustration notecards: Students write a vocabulary word at the top of a notecard. They create a simple illustration to represent the word on the card. For example, a card with the word “gradually” might have a picture of a melting ice cube. On the back, students write the definition of the word.
For more vocabulary ideas, CLICK HERE to learn about my paint chip shades of meaning activity.