Physical Vocabulary Learning Games

These games are all focused around learning vocabulary.  Some focus on the spelling aspect of vocabulary, while others facilitate learning definitions of words.  Each of these games has a physical component that will help to ensure a vibrant active classroom.

*Each of these activities corresponds with the following Utah State Core Curriculum Standards for 5th grade Language Arts: Standard 6- Objective 1.a and 1.b

Standard 6:  Vocabulary-Students learn and use grade level vocabulary to increase understanding and read fluently.

Objective 1:  Learn new words through listening and reading widely.

a.  Use new vocabulary learned by listening, reading, and discussing a variety of genres.

b.  Learn the meaning and properly use a variety of grade level words (e.g., words from                                         literature, social studies, science, math).


1.  Stop and Scribble: Participants stand at desks with partners, with one piece of paper and pencil for every 2 students.  Teacher calls out physical activity:

  • jumping
  • twisting
  • jogging
  • jumping jacks
  • hopping knee lifts
  • playing air guitar
  • marching

Participants begin activity and continue for at least 30 seconds or until the teacher calls out a vocabulary word.  When the teacher calls out the vocabulary word, participants freeze and partners work together to try to spell the word correctly on a piece of paper.  The teams with the most words spelled correctly win at the end of the game.

2.  Interpretative Dancing: Participants should find their own personal space.  Then put on any dance music you can think of (Enya songs work really well), and start dancing!  Participants should remain dancing the whole time, and should not talking or touch one another.  Call out nouns from below list and encourage the kids to act them out in an interpretative dance style (use your imagination).  Kids will be reluctant, so you may have to dance and get the kids to follow.  This activity can be used to familiarize the participants with the definitions of words while they try to dance them out.  This activity is also a way of encouraging self-expression.  The particular list of words below relates to a lesson based on civic participation (although many of the words are included just because they are easy to act out).

Tree      Wind      Bird      Wheel     Separation      Bacon      Anger      Washing Machine     Excitement     Love

Windmill      Stick      Rollercoaster     Voting      President      Civic Participation      Community

3.  Storytime Yoga: This activity works really well with any story you may be reading to your class.  The activity is also effective with stories built around vocabulary words (written either by the teacher or by the students themselves).  To highlight the vocabulary words in the story have students stand up and find personal space.  Select several students to create yoga moves (or just any simple action) for the vocabulary words.  While reading the story the participants should complete the actions assigned to the vocabulary words each time they hear them read.

4.  Vocabulary Charades:  Clear a space that all of the participants will be able to see clearly.  Pick one participant to start off the game.  That participant should draw a vocabulary word out of a hat, and then act out the word without talking.  The other students should guess what word the student is acting out.  Whoever guesses the correct vocabulary word becomes the actor.  This game also works well broken down into two teams.  In that case whichever team the actor comes from gets the opportunity to guess the word first, but if they cannot guess the correct word in a certain amount of time, the other team has the opportunity to guess and get the point.  The actor should alternate coming first from one team, and then from the other team, throughout the game.