Classroom Vocab Game

Educational games are a great way to tap into student motivation and increase learning. Have five minutes left after a lesson? Need to review vocabulary before a test? Want to help struggling ELL students with English? “One Word Only!” is a classroom game designed to engage students and reinforce vocabulary.

Step 1: Explain game procedures. The teacher will write a secret word on a mini-white board and hold it behind a student’s head. The class will have to get the student to say the secret word, but they can only offer one-word clues. If a class member provides a one-word clue that enables the student to guess correctly, the class member becomes the next volunteer and game play continues for a set amount of time. When a student guesses a word correctly, place a sticker on their hand before they return to their seat. The student with the most stickers at the end of the game receives a small reward.

Step 2: Model an example game. Before actually playing the game, model a quick example with a student volunteer. Bring the student to the front of the class. Write a simple word, like “lunch,” on a small white board behind the student’s head. Once the classroom has seen the word, set the white board aside. Have the class practice providing one-word clues by raising their hands and waiting to be called on by the student. Invariably, class members will use more than one word, “it’s after breakfast.” Gently remind students of the rules. They will quickly discover they need to put some thought into their one word and will have to play off other students’ clues: “food,” “afternoon,” “everyday,” etc. You will also find that students want to use gestures. The game is “One Word Only” not “One Word and Some Gestures.” Once the class gets the hang of the rules, begin the game.

Step 3: Begin the game. Set an amount of time for game play and stick to it. Have a list of target words ready to use during game play. They can be spelling words, story vocabulary, social studies concepts, math terms, science words, or any words that the students need to know to be successful. Write “One Word Only” on the classroom white board and select a student volunteer. As a teacher you will need to monitor the game and make sure students are waiting to be called on, only one-word clues are given, gestures are not used, and stickers are given to each round’s winner.

Step 4: End the game. At the end of the set amount of time, end the game and declare a winner. Provide a small reward like a pencil or a certificate that says “One Word Only Champ.” Incorporate this game throughout the school year to increase vocabulary and engage students.
This game can be used with any content and any grade level. Try it out and watch your students become word masters by the end of the school year.