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#50. Vocabulary Review

Reading/Writing, level: Middle
Posted by Jen Dawes (Michael Brazier@sprint.com).
Rancier Middle School; Killeen, Texas, United States
Materials Required: strips of paper, pencils
Activity Time: 20 minutes
Concepts Taught: vocabulary

Vocabulary review can be tedious for everyone. This activity has proven to be "the spoonful of sugar" that makes the inevitable a bit more palatable.

FIRST: Make sure that you have covered the vocabulary in some shape or form, whether you've asked the students to find definitions in the dictionary or you've at least mentioned some of the concepts in class. For this activity it's not essential that everyone have a complete understanding of each term, but at least a few of the kids need to have some idea.

NEXT: Pick six or seven terms that you feel have the best potential to be misunderstood by the class. Tell the students to each take a piece of notebook paper and rip it into eighths, putting their name on each scrap.

THEN: Call out the first term. Students have one minute to write its definition. IF SOMEONE DOES NOT KNOW THE TERM, THIS IS OKAY! Tell them to write a creative definition that would be likely to fool someone else. When the students are done with their defintions, they may walk silently up to your desk and give it to you. At this point, you should be choosing four of the slips: three incorrect versions and one that is acceptable.

AFTER THAT: Read all four definitions. Tell students that they are to vote for the ONE correct term. Let the voting commence and write the number of votes received on each slip.

SCORING/RESULTS: Have the kids tally their own points. Each student who votes correctly earns whatever amount of points you choose to assign. The authors of the four definitions get one point for each person who voted for the definition. You get to read some fairly hilarious definitions and score humor points with the kids. What a bonding experience.

CAUTION!!!!: To be fair, make sure you pick a different four people each time you switch terms. Otherwise, you may have an angry mob scene.

EXAMPLE: The word is "plunge." (This is a true example.)

#1 "to fall from a tall building" (9 votes)
#2 "a tool used to unclog a toilet" (4 votes)
#3 "to drop suddenly and sharply" (12 votes)
#4 "bird feathers" (0 votes)

VARIATIONS: You could do this in teams of four. You could include two correct definitions, which were worded differently and let children vote more than once to illustrate what "in your own words" means. You could do this with math equations (I'm guessing). You could keep a running score for the grading period.

I would love to say this is my own creation, because I didn't actually learn this from a specific person, but I have a niggling feeling that my kleptomanic mind stole it from someone or something. Does anyone do this already or is this a Parker Brothers game?


    Editor's Note - a similar game is available named "Balderdash." In college we played it as a drinking game and called it "Fictionary"!

      - Bob Reap


Barbara Holmes added:

Have the students draw a picture that gives a clue to the word's definition and write the word on the back. Each student has a different word to draw. You can hold these pictures up as a review. Remind students they don't need to draw well, just have a good clue for the word.