Vocabulary Games with Newsela

Students engage in discussion about vocabulary and practice their vocabulary skills while playing vocabulary games
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Two Truths and a Lie and Vocabulary Taboo Examples

About This Strategy

For acquisition of new vocabulary, students must not only memorize definitions, but also understand connections between words and internalize their own usage of new words. Students often complain that vocabulary instruction is not engaging, so it's important that teachers find new ways to engage students with vocabulary; games are a great way of keeping vocabulary instruction novel and exciting. Two Truths and a Lie, Volley for Vocabulary, and Vocabulary Taboo are all games in which students think critically about new words and have fun interacting with peers.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Select an appropriate Newsela article or Text Set. These texts should be related to the current unit of study. In a math, science, or social studies classroom, the selected texts should be rich with content vocabulary for the current unit.

  2. Select vocabulary words from within the article or Newsela Text Set.

    • Newsela PRO teachers can highlight these words in the article itself.

    • Non-PRO users can create a handout with the selected words to distribute to students. Model the desired vocabulary game for students to see. See teacher modeling resources in the resource section below.

Student Preparation

  1. Model the desired vocabulary game for students to see. See teacher modeling resources in the resource section below.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the Newsela article or Text Set.  Decide whether to provide it at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student or adjust the reading level to a particular grade for all students.

  2. While students read, they should be paying attention to highlighted words. Students should define the words as they go.

    • Newsela PRO users can have students use the annotations feature for definitions.

    • Non-PRO users can provide a vocabulary list on which students should record definitions.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Have students prepare materials for the game they will be playing.

  2. Have students play the game with each other. See sections below for specific rules for each game.

  3. Have students reflect on what they learned about new words and which words are still challenging.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Text Set Title: Earth Sciences: Biogeology

  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: Science, Technology and Engineering

Text Set Title: Who's Counting?

  • Grade Level: 7-9
  • Content Area: Math

Text Set Title: Animals - Invertebrates: How are they Similar? How are they Different?

  • Grade Level: 2-4
  • Content Area: English Language Arts, Science

Text Set Title: Early Human Migration

  • Essential Question: What could have been influential factors in early human migration?
  • Grade Level: 5
  • Content Area: Social Studies, English Language Arts

Two Truths and a Lie Vocabulary Review Game

Implementation Steps for After Reading:

  1. After reading, students should select 3-5 words for which they would like to write "2 Truths and a Lie."

    • For older students or for more complex vocabulary, teachers may have students write 3 or 4 truths and a lie.

  2. Teachers may choose to play this game digitally or with paper and pencil.

    • For the digital game, Newsela PRO users can have students use the Annotations feature to add their 2 Truths and a Lie to the article itself.

    • Non-PRO users or teachers who prefer to play with tactile cards can use the cards template found in the Resources Section.

  3. Once students have completed their cards or annotations, they should be placed in pairs, and should identify "Partner A" and "Partner B."

  4. Partner A should read the 2 Truths and a Lie for their first word. Partner B should then guess which is the lie. Partner A should reveal the answer.

  5. Partners A and B should switch back and forth until they've each shared all of their cards.

  6. Repeat steps 4-5 the desired number of times. See "Teacher Tips" for additional ways to use this strategy.

  7. As students play the game, they should record what they learn about the vocabulary words, based on their partner's statements, on a Note-Taker sheet, like in the resources section.

  8. To close the strategy, students should identify 2 words that they know they understand, and 1 word that they still need help with. There is a place for this exit ticket on the Note-Taker sheet in the resources section.

Vocabulary Taboo Review Game

Implementation Steps for After Reading:

  1. After reading, students should select 3-5 words for which they would like to write Taboo Cards.

  2. On their Taboo cards, students should list a few words that are very closely related to their vocabulary words.

    • These words are "taboo" and cannot be used in describing the word.

    • Teachers of younger students may limit this list to 2-3 words, while teachers of older students may want to have students list 5-7 words.

  3. Once their Taboo cards are complete, students should be placed into groups of 4. Each group should trade Taboo cards with another group, so that no student is playing with the same cards he or she created.

  4. Once in groups, students stack the cards and one student draws the top card. This student has to describe the word on the card without using any part of the word or any of the listed "taboo" words in its description. The other members of the team try to guess the word.

  5. Play rotates for the desired number of turns.

Volley For Vocabulary

Implementation Steps for After Reading:

  1. After reading, allow students an opportunity to review their definitions of the selected vocabulary words with a partner.

  2. Place all of the vocabulary words on a beach ball, either by writing with dry erase marker or taping index cards to the ball.

  3. Students should stand in a circle, facing inward. The teacher throws the ball to a student, and that student should read off the word that their hand lands on.

  4. With that word, students can (based on teacher direction):

    • Act out the word (especially for younger students)

    • Define the word

    • Use the word in a sentence

    • List a synonym

  5. Play continues as students call one another by name and then continue throwing the ball.

Teacher Tips

Aimee Tolleson
Newsela Master Teacher
  • Teachers may choose to play several rounds of 2 Truths and a Lie or Taboo Vocabulary in one class period. However, if students keep the Truth and Lie or Taboo cards, it can be an effective and engaging warm-up activity used throughout the week.

  • 2 Truths and a Lie can be used as an extension activity for students who finish their assigned work early. When finished, students can self-select a Newsela article, identify their own vocabulary words, and create 2 Truths and a Lie cards. Students can deposit these cards in a central location in the classroom for others to use as they finish their work. This allows for enrichment of advanced students and can even allow for an intervention or conferencing activity for the teacher.