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Vocabulary Activities for Teens and Tweens

He opened a clean notebook, lifted his quill pen, and wrote: “A is the first letter of the Alphabet in most of the known languages of the earth……”

Meet Noah Webster. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut on October 16, 1758. Outspoken, opinionated, socially awkward, some say an incurable lunatic. He irritated others, and he knew it. He described himself as “not formed for society”. His critics asked one another, “What will this oddity of literature think of next”? What did Noah Webster do to make people so upset? He wrote books and articles about politics and language.

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Lexicographer (noun) – one who writes or complies a dictionary.

And that he did! It took him 22 years to complete, and along the way he learned 26 languages in the process. Webster’s first dictionary contained 37,000 words, and the expanded dictionary contained 70,000 words! These are just some of the interesting things my kids and I read last year in the biography, Noah Webster A Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef. I picked this book up at a consignment store, and it has become one of my favorite biographies!

It seems as if society today, has resorted to a means of communication consisting of emojis, acronyms, and abbreviations. They do have their place in our world, but is anyone interested in learning new words these days? I’ll admit, we’ve never really had a formal “vocabulary” class with workbooks or a special curriculum in our homeschool. Instead, we use a few fantastic resources of books, videos and several games! Perhaps you may find a few of them useful.

Our favorite vocabulary resources.

  • Word Up! The Vocab Show – this video has got to be the most fun way to learn Latin and Greek roots! Short, engaging videos had us laughing and learning! We use Quizlet to reinforce learning through the week.
  • Vocabulary Cartoons – the use of mnemonic devices with quirky cartoon pictures make vocabulary words stick. Great for visual learners! The book also has matching and fill-in-the-blank activities at the end of the unit.
  • Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power – same as above, different words.
  • Barron’s 1100 Words You Need to Know – I don’t own this, but it’s on my wish list!
  • King James Bible – We read through the gospels over the summer as a family after dinner, and we kept a pad of paper nearby to write unfamiliar words on. The writers chose the perfect words in our language – learn them! The words have more value and will help you to understand the text better than the easy readers on the market.

Our favorite vocabulary games.

Some of these are Pinterest finds, others are just made up. They can be played with any vocabulary list, science terminology, or used with a specific vocabulary curriculum. There is a printable copy of this list with further instructions in my Free Resource Library.

  • Rolling Words:  Students only need word cards (or definition cards) and a die. Players take turns flipping a card and giving the definition (or if it is a definition card- they give the word). If they are correct, they roll the die to see how many points they get. If they are incorrect, it is the next person’s turn.
  • Kaboom!:  For this game, you can use the word cards from Rolling Words or you can write words on Popsicle sticks. You will also want to include a few kaboom cards or write kaboom on a few sticks. Students take turns pulling one card (or stick) out of a container. If they pull a word card, they must give the definition. You can change this up a bit by requiring them to give a synonym and antonym. Just don’t be the one to draw Kaboom!
  • BUZZ:  In Family Feud fashion, two students face off!  I ask any vocabulary question and when a student thinks they know the answer, they push their buzzer (we love these). The first buzzer I hear gets to answer.
  • DICE GAME: For each vocabulary word, students roll a die. The number they land on tells them the activity to do. 1 = Define the word. 2 = Use it in a sentence. 3 = Spell the word. 4 =Draw it. 5 = Act it. 6 = Student’s Choice
  • Board Games:  You will need word cards. The game is played according to the rules of the chosen game. The only change is that before a player can take their turn on the game board, they must flip over a word card and correctly define it. If they are correct, they get their turn. If they are incorrect, it is the next person’s turn. Connect Four or Checkers and Tic-Tac-Toe are great to use with this activity.
  • Sticky Head: Write a vocabulary word on a sticky note and place on student’s forehead. The person wearing the sticky note can only ask the group (or just you) questions that can be answered with a yes/no until they figure out what word is on their head. Game play is similar to Headbandz.
  • Bottle Caps: Use numbered bottle caps to match the number of words you are working with. Place them in an opaque bag or container. When student draws #4 for example, call out the 4th word on your list. Point values can vary. Make up your own rules, and change them often!
  • Vocabulary Bingo:  Each student will need a blank VOCAB board. These can be found in the Free Resource Library with this printable list. Game play is the same as regular bingo.
  • Solve The Puzzle: A Wheel-of-Fortune without the wheel, or hangman without the hangman. Simply draw blanks on chalkboard or paper, and have the students guess the letters until they can solve the puzzle.
  • Vocab-Zee: A Yahtzee™-inspired vocab game. Click here to download the free Vocab-Zee Dice Game rules.

More vocabulary fun!

Some “tricks of the trade” for our vocab games.
  • I love all types of scavenger hunts, and while I was writing this post, I found a Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary hunt for various levels. Printable worksheets and other various vocabulary activities are also available there.
  • Another idea that I thought of last minute was dictionary art. I’ve seen prints all over the internet for sale, and thought it would be simple to make. Stain a dictionary page with tea or coffee, then write a quote or draw a simple picture for some cool artwork. Teens love this stuff! I actually grabbed a dictionary for a quarter last year to do projects like this with. Goodwill stores and library book sales are great places to find them.
  • Noah Webster A Man of Many Words – Targeted for teens and tweens, Reef does an amazing job of thoroughly weaving American history in with the fascinating story of Noah Webster. Beautifully illustrated, and the high quality pages make this book one that you want to keep on your bookshelf!

If you need a dictionary not to destroy, I highly recommend Usborne’s Illustrated Dictionary. It’s a perfect “next step” dictionary, for older children, and even adults! We’ve used our for several years!

There you have it! Have a jocular time learning new words with your teens!

(adjective – fond of or characterized by joking; humorous or playful)

3 thoughts on “Vocabulary Activities for Teens and Tweens”

  1. I really need to play more games for vocabulary. We use several for math or geography, but I hadn’t really thought about how they could help even my older children with vocabulary.

  2. That biography does sound intriguing! What a great find. And I love that you included a vocabulary game that involves dice. We LOVE dice in our house.

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