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9 Activities to Increase Vocabulary for High School Students

Ashmeet Bagga
Though we know passive learning is an ineffective way of learning vocabulary, many teachers still incorporate the same practice in their classrooms. To make the mundane task of teaching vocabulary interesting, let us take a look at some interactive vocabulary activities for high school students.
"Few activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary."
― Tim Gunn
Vocabulary is important for high school students, rather any grade student due to its direct connection to reading and writing. Vocabulary is helpful for students who are preparing for future competitive exams.
Gone are the days when teachers would write down a set of five words on the board and ask you to jot them down in your notebook seven times. This method was used to grill these words in your head, but honestly you would forget about the words and their meanings the next day itself.
Copying the word's meaning directly from a dictionary would definitely do us no good. Studies have inferred that students need multiple exposure to that word, before they can understand and apply it further. Relying on a list of weekly vocabulary would not help students with adequate word knowledge despite their best efforts.
So to increase vocabulary in high school students, there are many fun and creative activities mentioned here
But keep in mind that different students learn words differently. So while one activity may be suitable for some kid, other methods would work for another kid.

Vocabulary Games For High School Students


Distribute blank bingo sheets of five boxes across and five boxes down to every student.
Fill these boxes with their choice of vocabulary words. Pick out a word randomly from a bowl and define the word in front of the class. Students are allowed to use a marker on the related word square. If a student gets five words in a row, he has to call out 'Bingo'. He also needs to name the words to ascertain that he/she has correctly identified them.

Vocabulary Toss

For this activity you require a wastebasket, a sponge, and a chalkboard eraser. Next split your class into two teams and make them stand in two lines, parallel to each other. This game integrates basketball shooting game with a vocabulary guessing game. Now let the player in the front of one team define a vocabulary word.
If he is correct, his team will earn a point. They have a second chance of earning another point, if he throws the eraser into the basket. However, if his answer is incorrect the player on the other team can answer it and shoot into the basket. Continue the game until everybody gets a chance to define a word. The team with maximum points wins the game.

Vocabulary Basketball

This game can be played in the classroom itself. For this game, you need a small wastebasket or any container and a small blackboard. You can use a piece of masking tape to create a foul shot line on the floor. Divide the class into teams of two, make sure everybody gets a chance to shoot the hoops.
When any team sends its member to the foul shot line, give them a definition for any vocabulary word. If he/she answers it correctly, her/his team earns a point. They earn an extra point if he/she makes a subsequent shot. They play until all the words are used.

Vocabulary Baseball

Split your class into two teams. Draw a baseball diamond on the blackboard, both the team get three outs each inning and a player from each team goes at a time. The teacher has to say the word, and every student needs to define the word within 20 seconds.
If he/she can answer it in five seconds, their team scores a home run, within ten seconds it's a triple, within fifteen seconds it's a double and just before time out it's a single. However, if he/she is unable to answer the question or get the definition wrong, they are out. The team with the maximum runs at the end of nine innings wins the game.

Vocabulary Relay

This vocabulary building activity is suitable for students who struggle to remember science vocabulary. This game will help to test a student's knowledge of paraphrasing definitions.
Divide the class into two teams, let the students form two lines in front of the chalkboard. One line should be on the left side of the board and one team on the right side of the board. Next, choose an even number of vocabulary words and jot down first half of the word on one side of the board and the rest on the other side. Decide which team will go first.
Once the member reaches the board, let him read the word aloud and give you the definition in his own words. If he/she can define it, have him/her erase the word. If not let the next student in the line try the word. Alternate between the two teams, until all the words are answered. The team which clears their side of the board first is the winner.

Drawing Activities

Also known as pictionary, it is a fun game to be played and is really helpful for maths and science. This game also motivates students to be creative and helps them to work as a team.
Separate the class into two teams. Let one representative from one team select a word. Now he has to draw something related to the word on the board. He needs to draw the word in action, so that his team can guess what the word is.
If his team members can answer the word and define it, they earn a point, if not, members from the other team can steal the point. This activity enables the students to learn more about the practical application of vocabulary.

Guess The Word

Pretty simple to play yet can get complicated sometimes. Nevertheless it is a major hit amongst many students.
Let one student sit in front of the classroom facing away from the blackboard. The teacher has to write down a word but the student facing other students is not allowed to look at it. The student has a list of ten questions, which he needs to ask his fellow students to determine what that word is. They are supposed to give answers only in yes or no form.

Selecting Words

While a particular word may be difficult for one student, it may not be the same for others. Making long lists of words and teaching these words in one class can be a tiring experience.
Let the students go through every chapter, and ask them to remove words which they feel they don't understand. Once they are done collect all the lists and go through it. The process of explaining the words can then begin.

Ranking Words

It is difficult to narrow down on words which are supposed to be taught. Divide the vocabulary words into three tiers. Tier one consists words that are basic and which don't require much focus.
Tier two comprises words that are used often, appear in a higher frequency, and are applicable in many fields (reluctant, analysis). Tier three has words that are used in less frequency and are limited to specific field of study (Buddhism, isotope). Once you shortlist the words, and teach those words which you feel relevant.
By implementing vocabulary building activities in high school, teachers and students both can enjoy a pleasurable learning experience. Just like engaging in new activities will improve your vocabulary, so will interacting with people. You may learn and pick up words which they use, this will thus aid in increasing your vocabulary.