Best Way to Teach Vocabulary to Your Students

Teaching vocabulary words to students doesn’t have to be boring and repetitive. In this article, we have tried to incorporate the best methods to energize your classroom during vocabulary instruction. Teaching ESL and incorporating best practices to teach vocabulary is a much-needed requirement of the class. 

Vocabulary Words

When it comes to teaching vocabulary words, having students copy definitions from the board into a notebook week after week can become boring for both the students and the teacher. Wouldn’t it be great if your students actually looked forward to learning new vocabulary words? With a little creativity, vocabulary instruction can become an exciting time in the classroom for all involved.

Students need to learn vocabulary words, which are sets of unfamiliar words about a topic, in every subject area. In this lesson, you will learn innovative ways to teach vocabulary words by creating games for your students or engaging in some other outside-of-the-box lesson planning.

Using Games to Teach Vocabulary Words

It can be overwhelming to think about creating new games to use in your classroom. After all, there is a lot involved in that process. However, by modifying some existing games to include a focus on vocabulary words, the game-making process is easy. Let’s take a look at how the following popular games can be tweaked to teach vocabulary words.


In this classic card game, participants race to collect four similar cards and then grab a spoon before they are all taken.

To modify this game, simply make a set of four cards for each vocabulary word. For each set of four, one card should have the definition of the word and the other three should name the vocabulary word. In order to get four of a kind, students need to collect the definition card and the three-word cards. Once students collect four of a kind, they grab a spoon. If students see a spoon being taken, they also need to grab a spoon before they are gone!


Concentration is a great game for students to play individually or with a group. To create a game, write one vocabulary word on a notecard and its matching definition on another notecard. To play, turn all the notecards upside down. Taking turns, students flip over two notecards at a time to try to match the vocabulary word with the correct definition.

Draw, Act, or Sculpt

Divide your class into teams. Write the vocabulary words on notecards and place them into a hat. To play, you should pick one vocabulary per round. Each team sends one player to view the vocabulary word. These students have the option to draw the vocabulary word, act it out, or sculpt it using clay for their team. The first team to guess the vocabulary word wins the round.


In the classic Taboo game, players try to have their team guess the word they are describing without using any of the forbidden words. To modify, write each vocabulary word on the top of a notecard and list three or four forbidden words underneath. Students need to describe the vocabulary word to their teams without using any of the forbidden words.


Give students a list of vocabulary words to write on their bingo cards. As you play, read the definitions of the vocabulary words, and students can mark their cards if they have the matching word.

As you can see, it can be easy to modify existing games to teach vocabulary within the classroom. Can you think of any other games that can be used to teach vocabulary?

Other Ideas for Vocabulary Instruction

Besides games, teachers can use other creative methods to teach vocabulary words. Two of my favorite ideas are vocabulary newscasts and vocabulary freeze frames.

Vocabulary Newscast

Divide students into news teams and give them a list of vocabulary words. For each word, students need to create news stories to present to the class in a newscast.

Vocabulary Freeze Frame

Divide students into small groups and give each group a vocabulary word. The students need to use their bodies to make a freeze frame scene of their vocabulary words. Whenever you mention a vocabulary word in class, the corresponding team needs to jump to the front of the room to display their freeze frame.

By using the ideas we discussed in this lesson, teaching vocabulary words, or sets of unfamiliar words about a topic can become an exciting part of your classroom routine. You can take popular games, such as Spoons, Bingo, or Concentration, and transform them into vocabulary lessons for your students. Creative ideas, such as newscasts or freeze frames, also excite and engage students.