Fun and Engaging Vocabulary Lessons

Fun and Engaging Vocabulary Activities

Vocabulary lessons have a bad reputation for being boring. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Well, maybe once in a while it does – sometimes kids do need to learn definitions of new words, and that is the boring part. But there is so much more to vocabulary that is actually fun and engaging, and without too much effort.

Believe it or not, it all depends on your objectives. Objectives about multiple meaning words, context clues, or word connotations are interesting in themselves and just naturally lend themselves to compelling lessons!

These goals are engaging for kids because there is more to them than just looking up words or remembering definitions. Working with multiple meaning words, context clues, and connotations all involve thinking – and that’s what gets kids hooked every time!

Multiple Meaning Words

Multiple meaning words are probably the easiest of all for doing a fun lesson. You’ll just need some pictures – pictures showing several meanings of the same word. For example, a picture of a stone, a picture of a band playing with guitars and drums, and a picture of a baby being lulled to sleep in a swaying cradle. Ask the class what the three words have in common. The answer is “rock” – a multiple meaning word. A stone is a rock, the band is a rock band, and the baby is bein rocked to sleep. Here’s another set, for the word “board” – a piece of wood, people boarding a ship, and a classroom whiteboard.

One word of caution about multiple meaning words – for the best effect, try not to use definitions that are too similar or obviously from the same root, such as to compose a paragraph and to record thoughts with a pencil for the word “write.” Also, I wouldn’t use definitions that vary just by the part of speech, such as the meanings of the word “writing” that apply to a noun and to a verb (a piece of writing versus the act of writing).

Context Clues

Understanding context clues is another vocabulary skill that involves the many meanings that one word can have. It teaches kids that there’s a lot more to understanding words than just looking them up in a dictionary. The dictionary will give them choices, but only a close reading of the text will tell which definition fits the word’s use in a story.


Understanding word connotations also relies on differentiating between the various meanings of a word. It’s a great skill to teach along with a writing lesson because it lets the kids think of themselves as serious writers. “Now exactly what do I want my readers to understand, and which of these words best expresses my meaning?”

More Vocabulary Goals – Synonyms, Figures of Speech . . .

Do you notice a pattern here? In a way, each of these vocabulary goals is based on the idea that words have more than one meaning or that more than one word can express the same (or nearly the same) meaning.

Synonyms are another example. Synonyms are generally considered to be words that mean the same thing, but any time students really look at a set of synonyms they will start to see slight differences among the words (and so you’re right back to connotations!) So an easy follow-up objective after identifying synonyms would be to choose among synonyms for the best word to use in a particular sentence.

Now, if your class, or you, are really into this whole word thing, why not launch right into figures of speech? Often seen as more of a writing skill, or maybe an interpreting-poetry skill, figurative language could certainly be used in enrichment vocabulary activities for your faster learners while others are still working on vocabulary basics.

Words, words, and more words – for writers, that is the fun part of the job. And by focusing on the fun and interesting details of words, it can be the fun part of the “job” for students as well!

Related Resources

Here are some ready-to-use classroom activities for some of the objectives I’ve just been taking about that might make your vocabulary planning just a little bit easier. And there are others in the store – including poetry and figurative language resources. I hope you will check them out!

Note: The task cards sets all include both print and digital versions!

Multiple Meaning Word Task Cards
Connotations Task Cards
word choices and word relationships activities for the classroom

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