Promote Vocabulary Through Play

A great way to instantly engage students in vocabulary learning is by allowing them to play board games. Who doesn’t love a great board game? You could set up different stations in your classroom, either having all of the stations involving a board game or mix in some other word learning activities too.

After much research, and trial and error, I have complied a list of the games that best help students improve their word knowledge. Practice, practice, practice! Kids need up to 40 exposures to a word before it can truly become part of their conversational vocabulary. Of course, these games are also kid approved!

**Click the title of the game to see more information about it**

Games great for all ages:

  • Blurt: This game is a best seller from Educational Insights. It has won many awards and causes lots of laughter. Kids don’t even realize they are learning! This game encourages quick thinking skills while helping students to improve their word knowledge.
    • How does it work? Players are given a hint and asked to come up with the word in which the hint best represents. For example:
      • Hint: A piece of iron shaped like a U and nailed to the bottom of a horses shoe. (Answer: Horseshoe)

This is a great game for families as well!


  • Bananagrams: This is a must have for any classroom, this game is always fun! This game is all about the thrill of building words as quickly as you can, configuring the words in a crossword format. The bananagrams brand has also morphed their popular game into may different versions. Such as “Appletters” and “PairsinPears.” Other great new perks: a Bananagrams version that is for younger children and “Double Bananagrams” which allows for up to 16 people to play!



Games best for primary grades (K-3):

  • Shades of Meaning: Lakeshore Learning has created very engaging word learning cards that can easily be made into a game in your classroom. It comes in two different versions – one for grades K-1 and the other for grades 2-3.
    • Each card has three, age appropriate verbs, adjectives or nouns with similar meanings. The darker the shade, the “stronger” the word. You could have players come up with a fourth word that matches the word on the card. Or you could use the third word as the word that they need to guess in order to earn points. There are many possibilities with this one!



  • Zingo!: This award winning game is Bingo with a twist. Students work to match the picture and words to their challenge card. While building language skills the kids quickly race to fill their board and yell out “ZINGO!” This game has easy rules to understand and is great in a small or large group setting!



Games best for upper elementary grades (4-6):

  • Wipeout!: This game from Lakeshore Learning has a surfing theme which is genius. Kids don’t even realize they are learning along the way! The way to surf to the finish line is by completing sentences with the correct vocabulary word. There are some obstacles along the way as well, such as broken surfboards and big rocks in the water. This game could be played in teams of 2, allowing for up to 8 kids to play at once.


  • Upwords: This game is a spin off of Scrabble. Along with filling up the game board, you can also build the letter blocks upwards! This is a great game for later on in the school year. Players do need a fair amount of word knowledge in order to play. To begin I would suggest having kids work in teams of 2, this will help the creativity with trying to come up with words to play.



I hope you have found a new game to add to your classroom collection! Please comment below with other game ideas. Playing is so important for the word learning of kids at all ages!

Published by Liz Siracusa (Vocabulicious)

* Elementary Educator * Instructional Literacy Coach * Vocabulary Lover * The history behind Vocabulicious is simple - I love to help students growth their vocabulary, and I want to help YOU make your classroom a word conscious environment. I’m excited to share all of the vocabulary activities I have had success with throughout the years, plus great mentor texts to use for interactive read alouds. I live in Burlington, Vermont and enjoy hiking, biking and running!

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