Wordshop

Vocab activities for your classroom

Getting Beyond the Definition

Can you imagine trying to explain the word currency without using the words money, exchange or country? Or, how about trying to explain epic without referring to the words hero, narrative or poem? This activity, borrowed from Hasbro's Taboo game, is a great way to have students review a list of vocabulary words from class in a fun, engaging format.

Create a stack of index cards — each with a vocabulary word and a list of three or four related "taboo" words that students are forbidden to use as they try to explain the word to their teammates within a certain time limit (e.g., 2 minutes). (It is useful to use Visual Thesaurus definitions and synonyms to help you think of which words to include in your lists of forbidden words!)

This game functions a bit like a verbal version of charades, without the gestures. Give each student the chance to play clue-giver as he or she explains the word on the index card without using the forbidden words in the explanation. For example, a clue-giver might choose the word protagonist and have to explain the term without using the words main, character, story or narrative. (So, the clue-giver might explain that "Both Harry Potter and Hamlet are examples of this.")

If the clue-giver's team guesses the word on the index card correctly within the time limit, then that team scores a point. The team with the most points at the end of the class wins. This vocabulary game encourages students to think beyond how words are defined and to think of examples of those words "in action."


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Georgia Scurletis is Director of Curriculum for the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com. Before coming to Thinkmap, she spent 18 years as a curriculum writer and classroom teacher. Georgia has written curriculum materials for a variety of Web sites (WGBH, The New York Times Learning Network, Edsitement) and various school districts. While teaching high school English in Brooklyn, she was a recipient of the New York State English Council's Educators of Excellence Award, the Brooklyn High Schools' Recognition Award, and The New York Times' Teachers Who Make a Difference Award. Click here to read more articles by Georgia Scurletis.

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Comments from our users:

Thursday July 1st 2010, 10:05 PM
Comment by: Valerie L.
I really like this idea as a way to review words. I'll use it in the fall. Thank you.

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