Tearing Into Vocabulary

A. Wills
Multiple Subject Teacher

This is a quick activity to allow students to work cooperatively while increasing awareness of vocabulary for a given lesson.

Grade Level: K - 5th

Subject: English/Language Arts

Length of Time: 15-30 Minutes

Objectives & Outcomes

Students should be able to work cooperatively to put together vocabulary words, definitions, and other related information.

Materials Needed

  • Light colored construction paper strips (a different color for each group)
  • Scissors
  • Pencils (everyone should use pencils)


Opening to Lesson

Explain to students that you are going to do a quick vocabulary review that can earn them a reward/prize/etc. Explain which vocabulary you will be using for the game. Tell students that they should know or can look up the vocabulary word, but must also know a definition, a word that means the opposite of, and be able to illustrate the word.

Body of Lesson

  • Begin by grouping students. Give each student in a given group a colored strip of paper (each group member should have the same color, but each group should be a different color). Tell students to fold the strip into four equal squares and then lay the paper down.
  • Show students on your own paper what will be expected. Have a list of possible vocabulary words on the board. Make sure there is at least one word per student in each group or more words than students. Tell students that everyone in the group must choose a word, but no two group members can choose the same word. The chosen word will be written on the first square.
  • The second square should contain a short definition of the word. Make sure all students are using a pencil to write to make the competition fair.
  • The third square should contain a word that means the opposite of the vocabulary word (if this is not possible with your vocabulary then have students choose a synonym, as long as all students are doing the same thing).
  • The final square should have a small, legible picture that represents the term. After all squares have been filled out, have students cut the squares apart on the fold and mix all squares from the group together.
  • Have the groups exchange squares with one another. On go, the groups must work together to reassemble the strips in the right order for all the vocabulary words. Check each strip before declaring a winner.


Have the winning group read the vocabulary words and definitions that they have put together after every group finishes. If time permits, have the groups exchange again and try to put another set together.

*This activity can be used with vocabulary from any subject area.

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Assessment & Evaluation

Students should be able to work cooperatively to reassemble their ‘vocab strips’ as a group. This can be made into a competition with the group that is the fastest and has all correct getting a reward. Reward all groups but the fastest with the correct should get the largest reward (such as more extra credit on a quiz.)

Modification & Differentiation

Create groups that are varied in ability and knowledge levels and require everyone to put at least one strip back together for a team to win.

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