teaching-3rd-grade-vocabularyVocabulary may not be the most exciting lesson to teach, but with a little creativity and innovation, you can easily turn 3rd grade vocabulary lessons into fun activities that your students will be excited about.

Getting your students interested in learning vocabulary can be an undertaking. These 3rd grade vocabulary activities will help your students with memorization and retention of new words and expand their current vocabulary. Try out these techniques in your classroom and help your students build a skill set that will last them a lifetime.

Whether it’s a game, a word wall or a storytelling activity, all of these ideas will help your students learn and understand new words. These activities are so fun that they might forget they’re even learning vocabulary!

Vocabulary Activity #1: Vocab Bag Toss

Vocab bag toss is an interactive and entertaining way to learn new vocab words.

There are a few materials you’ll need for this game. Gather a sturdy piece of poster board, some writing materials and a few bean bags.


How to Create the Game

  1. Make a 2×2 grid on the poster board.
  2. Write the following in the different squares on the grid:
  • Use in a Sentence
  • Define
  • Act Out
  • Draw

3. Gather the bean bags. If you can’t snag some bean bags from the P.E. teacher, bean bags can easily be made from plastic sandwich bags filled with rice or beans.

Now that you have created the game, get your vocabulary list ready and have your students line up.

Give each student a vocabulary word and have them toss the bean bag onto the board. Whatever action they land on they have to do. If they miss the board, they can toss again or move closer to the board.

You can make the game more competitive by splitting your class into teams and awarding points for accurately showing, writing or telling the class what the vocabulary word means.

By associating a fun and physical activity with the vocab words, your students are more likely to remember what the words mean and in what context.

Vocabulary Activity #2: Create a Synonym Wall


This activity is another physical game that will help your students associate vocabulary words with their synonyms.

Synonyms can bring better understanding to what a word means. Your students may not know how to define a new vocabulary word right off the bat, but they might know what a synonym for that word means.

For this activity you’ll need a poster board or blank wall in your classroom, smaller cards (index cards will work fine) and velcro, push pins or sticky tack.

Depending on your class size, assign each student a few vocabulary words and have them look up synonyms for those words. Have them write their vocabulary word on one card and a synonym on another.

Collect the cards and line them up out of order on two separate sides of a table.

Your students will take turns sticking a vocab word to the synonym wall and matching the word with its corresponding synonym.

Not only will this push students to remember what the definition and meaning of the vocab word is, but it will help them retain the meaning through word association.

Keep your synonym wall on display and continue adding to it every time you give them a new vocabulary list.

Vocabulary Activity #3: Make this Sentence More Interesting Using Your Vocabulary Words

With this activity, you will have your students take a simple sentence and make it more interesting by swapping out words for vocabulary words.

This is another activity centered around synonyms, but it shows how simply choosing a different word, can change how interesting a sentence is.

Before you begin this activity, write a list of sentences, cut them up, put them in a bag or a hat and have students draw sentences at random. Make sure you create sentences that you know can be made better using the vocabulary list.

Make the sentences as complex or as simple as you would like, but the point is to be able to replace words in the sentence with the right vocab word. Below are a few examples:

  • Vocab words: ancient; elegant
  • Original sentence: “The necklace that Emily found was very old and fancy”
  • Revised sentence: “The necklace that Emily found was ancient and elegant”


  • Vocab words: pleasant; tackle
  • Original: Tyler decided that the weather was nice enough to work on his gardening project.
  • Revised: Tyler decided that the weather was pleasant enough to tacle his gardening project.

By having your students think critically about which words are the best to switch out and the vocabulary words would work best in their place, they will build both creative and descriptive writing skills.



After your students have created more descriptive sentences with their vocab words, have them write a story from their sentence. They will need to come up with more details to add to the story. It can be helpful to use a worksheet to organize their ideas. Coax them to utilize more vocabulary words in their stories. Have your students add an illustration to the stories they wrote and put everything into a classbook so they can share their stories with everyone they know!

Vocabulary Activity #4: Antonym Word Replacement: Write about your favorite food and replace the descriptive words with their antonyms.

This activity will get your students critically thinking about the meaning of the words they chose as well as their antonyms.

Your students likely know what antonyms are, but probably call them something like “opposites.” It might be a good idea to give them a quick refresher of antonyms and why they are important in building vocabulary.

During this exercise, your students will write about their favorite food and replace the descriptive words in their stories with antonyms. We will warn you ahead of time that this could leave your class in a fit of giggles.

Have your students write a couple of paragraphs about their favorite food, something that they likely know a lot about, and skip one line in between sentences.

Once they’ve finished writing their paragraphs, instruct them to go back through and underline the descriptive words. Then, have them find antonyms for the words they underlined and write them on the empty line below the underlined word.



Your students can now rewrite their paragraphs with their chosen antonyms. Have them share their original paragraphs and rewritten paragraphs with a partner and have their partner give feedback on the antonyms they chose. Their partner may have a better or funnier antonym they can use in their writing. After your students have their final written draft, they can draw a picture of their favorite food the way they described it in the edited version of their writing. Take their paragraphs and drawings and combine them into a hilarious classbook that they can look at whenever they need a good laugh or a reminder of what antonyms are.

Vocabulary Activity #5: Tell me about an animal that is (insert descriptive word). Do this for 3 different animals.

This is a great activity to get your students familiar with the words on their vocabulary list or find new words that describe different personalities. It will also help them understand what those words mean in relation to a somewhat real-world context because they are using the vocab word to describe personality traits.

Your students will pick 3 animals that they like and give those animals a personality centered around the vocabulary words that they chose.

Have them write things that their animals would likely do or say and how they react to certain situations. Have them look up synonyms, definitions and sentences using the word to get a better understanding of the word if they are having trouble expressing the personality of their animal(s).

This activity will help your students with building their vocabulary and hone their descriptive writing skills while learning how to show and not tell in their writing.



Once your students have written descriptions using their chosen vocabulary or descriptive words for different animals, ask them to imagine what would happen if all of the animals were in the same room. Have them write a story using descriptive writing about an instance where all of these different characters are now in the same room and interacting, what happens? Have them add a picture of all of the animals together that shows their personalities. You can then collect all of these stories and publish them into a classbook that can be shared with everyone!


These five activities work to spark your students’ interest in improving their vocabulary. Whether it’s playing physical games like bean bag toss or writing descriptive stories, the more you engage your students and keep them interested in the work, the more understanding they will have of vocabulary and its importance.

Having a solid vocabulary will aid your students in future language arts classes and beyond. Writing essays, reading novels, studying textbooks, the success of reading comprehension and writing skills all start with having a strong understanding of vocabulary.

Building your students’ vocabulary is an essential part of the learning experience, and can be seamlessly integrated into your classroom curriculum.

Try out these activities and encourage your students to take charge of their own learning experiences and continue to build their vocabulary even after the activity is finished.

Additional Resources

For more creative ideas and resources to improve your students’ writing, visit our teacher’s lounge and don’t forget to head over to sign up and receive a free classbook publishing kit!