Engaging Vocabulary Activities for Secondary ELA

Sometimes teaching vocabulary can be a slog. Beyond the normal dictionary activities, Frayer model worksheets, and flashcards, what else is there? Here are a few engaging ideas for mixing up your vocabulary review in your classroom!

Tarsia Puzzles

Everyone likes a good puzzle. Giving students a chance to manipulate pieces with their hands gives them an opportunity to make connections and discoveries on their own. These Tarsia puzzles are unique puzzles because all the pieces are the same exact shape. Students work to match the triangle sides with the term to its definition or example. Lists of the answers are also included.

Tarsia puzzles can also be fun with partners or groups! Have students compete to see who can finish their puzzles the fastest. I love watching my students get so involved with vocabulary. Below are three ready-made Tarsia puzzles I’ve created so all you have to do is print, cut (and possibly laminate! My favorite part!)

If you’d like to customize, you can also create your own Tarsia puzzles with six different shapes with the resource below. You can use these puzzles for any subject (not just ELA!)

Ranking Connotations Activities

Teaching connotation to students can be tricky. Having them start to understand subtle nuances of word meanings can be difficult without productive discussion in the classroom.

Make it easy on yourself by using this fun, manipulative activity I creative. In this activity, students rank synonyms by arranging the cards from most positive to negative connotations. 18 card sets are included. I usually have students work in partners or small groups and listen to them argue about the “correct” order of the cards. They can come up with some pretty insightful (and hilarious) conclusions!

Get this activity in the digital format with Google slides, or do it the old-fashioned way with print cards.

Literary Word Walls

Displaying key vocabulary in the classroom is important to expose your students to these words daily. I recommend creating a “living” word wall – a bulletin board that you can add to as new words are taught. It’s perfect for supplementing your vocabulary instruction. Students can reference the word wall whenever they need!

This resource includes over 100 literary terms for secondary ELA. You can also edit and customize the cards for your own classroom using Google slides. Choose from a variety of backgrounds. Below are a few popular choices!

How do you mix up vocabulary instruction in your classroom? Comment below! Happy teaching!


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