We’ve all heard that “just 20 minutes of daily exercise” can improve our overall health, waistlines, and emotional wellness. I think the same applies to vocabulary lessons: A small amount on a consistent basis can do wonders over time without overwhelming students (and teachers).

While we used the Vocabulary Power Plus books in the classroom, to get the most out of the words, students needed to “live” them and use them in different contexts. Therefore, I had a toolbox of supplemental activities I used to reinforce the words they were learning from the books. 

Here are two of the “tools” I used in my classes:


Our blocks were 90 minutes long, so there were times when my students needed to get up and move. This activity was one of the most requested review games in my classroom. It didn’t test students on the definitions, but it did help reinforce the vocabulary words and how they are spelled.

I had everyone stand in a big circle around the room, and then I’d randomly choose someone to start.

The process went as follows:

  • The teacher presents a vocabulary word with its definition.
  • The first student repeats the given word.
  • Moving clockwise, the next student gives the first letter only of the word. If the student is correct, he or she remains standing. If incorrect, the student sits down, and the next one in line says the correct letter. 
  • Prompt the next student to say the second letter of the word. Continue having students give one letter at a time until the word is spelled. 
  • When the last letter is given, the next person in line will say the whole word.
  • The next person in line says, “Sparkle.”
  • The person after the one who said “Sparkle” is automatically out.

For example, if the word is cat, there would be six players who are safe (assuming they spelled it correctly). The seventh person would be out. The game is over when there is one person left standing. 

MODIFICATION: You can give your students a definition and have them spell out the corresponding vocabulary word. If anyone misspelled the word, they were out as well. If anyone missed a step (i.e., forgot to say the word again at the end), they were out.

It became a fun, fast way to covertly instill vocabulary words into their brains. Because I wouldn’t repeat what the students ahead of them said, my students also had to focus on listening. And full transparency: Because kids are kids, I did offer extra points on the weekly vocabulary quiz to the winners.

Visual Flashcards

When I taught, I always drew pictures on the whiteboard to illustrate what I was describing. Knowing that some kids are visual learners, I felt this was another way I could reach them.

And, believe me, I am no Pablo Picasso.

I used a lot of stick figures to represent Romeo, Juliet, Beowulf, Holden Caulfield, and other friends. My drawings were atrociously bad. But the kids remembered them when we would go back and reference them days later.

When I first introduced visual vocabulary flashcards to my students, they rolled their eyes. However, I told them that they would remember things better if they actually drew their own pictures for each word. I would say, “Remember my terrible drawing of George and Lennie sitting by the banks of the river?” They would all nod because who could forget that image?

So we created visual flashcards. I provided them with half-sheets of paper (less intimidating than a full 8 ½ x 11 sheet), markers, colored pencils, and crayons.

There were some basic requirements:

  • The word must stand out.
  • There must be a definition and a part of speech.
  • There must be color.
  • The picture should fill most of the page.
  • The picture could either be of the word or it had to show something that would help explain what the word means.

I encouraged creativity and discouraged quickly sketched pencil drawings. I let them know it was okay to enjoy drawing like a kid again and that they did not have to produce amazing works of art.

Sometimes it was tricky to produce a visual representation of a word. Instead, they drew a scene.

The work they came up with was fabulous—even when it wasn’t. It was creative. It was personal. It was memorable. It was visual.

Throughout the year we would revisit those flashcards and study them before some of our review games or lessons. It was an easy, fun way to keep vocabulary alive in the classroom.

Your activities don’t need to be complex; sometimes the simpler the idea, the more effective it is, especially with vocabulary. A great way to gain more time for these activities is to use Prestwick House’s digital Vocabulary Power Plus Online program. It gives students the opportunity to learn over 300 academic words using engaging, interactive activities, and it takes just minutes a week.

Activities to Pair With Vocabulary Power Plus Online

While the Vocabulary Power Plus Online program can serve as the basis for your instruction, it is always great to connect with students on another level. There are many ways to incorporate the word lists into additional activities.

Some other easy ideas include:

  • Have students log into the Prestwick House Quizlet site to play practice games with vocabulary words.
  • Challenge the students to write a story using all 15 vocabulary words in the lesson.
  • Create a “Vocabulary Word Wall.” Display the words on a wall or white board. Whenever a student uses a word correctly in conversation, place the student’s name under the word on the Word Wall. At the end of the week, the student who used the most vocabulary words wins.
  • Create daily warm-ups or exit tickets that require students to know the meaning of a word. For example, Tell about a time that you had to be impeccably dressed. Describe what you wore.
  • Have the students do crossword puzzles using vocabulary words. Prestwick House has ready-made crosswords for Vocabulary Power Plus in our Free Library. Another popular vocabulary downloadable is the Vocabulary-in-Context lesson plan, “Inside the World of Wizards.”

Just as it is important to exercise our bodies, it is imperative for students to stretch their brains in different ways. After a few weeks of consistent Vocabulary Power Plus Online use and quick, easy supplemental activities, you will notice an improvement in student vocabulary and usage.