10 Teacher-Made Classroom Vocabulary Activities (+ Printable Resources)
By Helen Prince
Looking for some engaging and fun vocabulary activities to use with your children? We’ve got you covered with our top 10 vocabulary activities for the classroom.
These vocabulary activities are perfect for both KS1 and KS2. Check out our ideas for different age groups below. You’ll also find teacher-made worksheets and printable activities for each vocabulary activity, helping you to save valuable prepping time – you’re welcome!
1) Compound conundrum
Compound conundrum is a very simple yet effective vocabulary activity for KS1. All you need is around eight different illustrations on a worksheet, which make four simple compound words. To make this into a more challenging vocabulary activity for KS2, you can include some longer and more complex words, as well as more pictures for children to match. We suggest using around fourteen images per worksheet to challenge older learners.
2) Frayer Model Worksheet
The Frayer model worksheet asks children to write a specific word in the middle of the page, then fill out four different boxes about the word, which are: the definition, a sentence involving the word, a synonym and a picture to represent the word. This brilliant model is the perfect way to solidify knowledge of a certain word and boost memorisation.
Perfect for visual learners, the Frayer model is a famous technique proven to expand and improve vocabulary. For KS1, this vocabulary activity can be done with short and relatively easy words. You can also make this exercise a cut and stick activity for younger children, where pupils are given three sets of definitions, sentences, synonyms and pictures to match up with three specific words.
To make this exercise more challenging and suitable for KS2 children, you can choose some longer and more complex words, as well as providing blank worksheets for children to fill in themselves. Children can look up the words in the dictionary and use reading books as inspiration to create their own sentences and find synonyms.
3) Idiom Challenge
In the idiom challenge, children are presented with a well-known idiom, such as ‘under the weather’. They are also given multiple choices answers about the origins of that particular idiom. The aim is for children to deduce which origin story for the idiom is correct and which stories are made up.
This classroom vocabulary activity is a great way for children to learn different idioms and how the English language works in colloquial speech. Pupils will also broaden their vocabulary using the words included in the multiple choice answers.
While simple phrases will be perfect for a KS1 vocabulary activity, longer phrases or more complex idioms can be used for KS2 children. You could also expand this vocabulary activity to include proverbs as well as idioms for an extra challenge for high achievers.
4) Nuance Challenge
One of our favourite vocabulary activities for the classroom, this handy little exercise is all about synonyms. In the nuance challenge, children are given a word, such as ‘angry’, along with four illustrations showing people feeling varying degrees of anger. Children are asked to rank the images from least angry to most angry, and write a synonym underneath each image to describe the level of anger shown.
We love this vocabulary activity for both KS1 and KS2 children because using colourful images is a great way to boost children’s vocabulary knowledge and encourage them to learn synonyms. You can include a variety of words in the nuance challenge. An extra challenge for older children could be to write a sentence including each synonym.
5) Word Association Challenge
Children have to pick words that they associate with a chosen word in this brilliant classroom vocabulary activity. If the word ‘happy’ is written in the centre of the page, with ten words surrounding this central word, children have to find five of these words that they associate with the word ‘happy’.
While helping to teach children new words and learn synonyms, the word association challenge is a fun puzzle that keeps children engaged. For a KS1 vocabulary activity, you can keep the central word fairly simple, clear and short with some obvious words around it, as well as some antonyms. Including words with opposite meanings will make it easier for children to match the correct words to the central word.
To make the word association challenge into a vocabulary activity that’s suitable for KS2, you can include some similar and more complex words on the sheet that children have to think more carefully about. KS2 children could also write a definition of the central word when they’ve completed this vocabulary activity as an extra challenge.
6) Synonym word Search
Use a classic word search puzzle to help children learn synonyms. All you need is a word search with lots of synonyms for a certain word. You can use an online word search creation tool or simply download our ready-made synonym word search.
Doing a puzzle will give children time to think about and memorise different words as they search for the synonyms. A word search is also an easy vocabulary activity to differentiate between age groups, as you can create a bigger and more complex word search puzzle for KS2 children, while keeping it smaller and simpler for KS1 children.
7) Challenge word list
More of a traditional vocabulary activity, using a challenge word list involves giving children a list of words to look up in the dictionary and asking them to write a sentence using each word. To expand on this classroom vocabulary activity, children can complete the Frayer model for each word, create a spoken sentence using the word, draw a picture for each word and look for the word in any books they’re reading.
Make sure to include some more challenging words for a suitable KS2 vocabulary activity, perhaps with different worksheets for different learning levels. KS1 children can start off with simpler words and progress to more challenging words if they complete the initial challenge word list.
As most vocabulary learning happens implicitly through listening and talking, integrating small group or class discussions into your lessons can go a long way to expanding children’s vocabulary without them even realising it. Perhaps you can find some age-appropriate discussion questions to ask your class and encourage them to discuss in pairs, small groups or as a whole class.
To take this vocabulary activity a step further, you could find some relevant words that children could try to include in a spoken sentence when discussing the topic with their peers. You can put a list of these words on your interactive whiteboard or hand a printed copy out to each table.
Having a list of examples handy will help children learn and use new words. You can also give out dictionaries for KS2 children to look up any of these new words that they’re not sure about. For KS1 pupils, you could simplify this vocabulary activity by giving each child one word to use in a discussion with their group or partner.
9) Chatterstars App
If you fancy using some simple and fun technology to vary your vocabulary activities and engage kids in their learning, we recommend our teacher-made vocabulary app. Mix up your classroom vocabulary activities by taking just 15 minutes out of your day for your pupils to complete some fun vocab games on the ChatterStars app.
Intuitive and easy to use, ChatterStars provides children with a range of fun games and activities to expand their vocab. You can track children’s progress on the special teacher screens, which shows you each child’s achievement and vocabularydevelopment. No marking – yes please!
10) Word Revision Cards
Using word revision cards can either be a call and response activity or a writing activity, which is done as a class, in small groups or individually. The idea is that you have a set of revision cards, each containing a different word, which you show to your children. They can then either say the definition and some synonyms out loud, or discuss this in small groups, or write their answers down individually.
You can create paper revision cards, or use digital flashcards on your interactive whiteboard. A great idea to maximise your children’s learning during this vocabulary activity is to use commonly-mistaken words in this task. For example, pick 5-10 words that were the most frequently occurring mistakes in your last vocab test to go over in this class activity.
10+1) Enrich vocabulary with Poetry
Repeated reading of a story has been found to provide greater than average gains in word knowledge by young children (Biemiller and Boote, 2006). Poetry can be a wonderful way to achieve these repeated readings, and, if with a view to learning by heart, then even better! Poetry provides a vibrant and limitless store of rich vocabulary and powerful phrasing for us in the classroom. Explore poets like Grace Nichols, Ted Hughes, Charles Causley and Amanda Gorman and see where their poems can take you!
Pupils in Years 5 and 6 should have opportunities for ‘preparing poems and plays to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone and volume so that the meaning is clear to an audience’. These opportunities should be full to the brim with explicit teaching to raise word consciousness, delving into words and phrases to debate meaning, connotation, emotion, effect.
Bring some fun vocabulary activities to your classroom
Ready to get started with some of our brilliant classroom vocabulary activities for both KS1 and KS2? We invite you to check out the resources linked in each section of this blog, as well as the ChatterStars app, to begin your vocab journey.
You can learn more about ChatterStars and how we can help you and your children with vocabulary development here. Happy learning!