Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Vocab Games: Jeff Ertzberger’s PowerPoint Games

A great vocabulary game resource that I revisit is Jeff Ertzberger’s PowerPoint games site. Jeff Ertzberger serves as the Director of Technology for UNC-Wilmington’s Watson College of Education.  Ertzberger’s site also features game boards that he has created with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.  It has visual timers too.  You should definitely check it out because you will be sure to find something you can use!

Here are some students favorites:

Big Wheel


Big Wheel features a wheel that the teacher or a student clicks to spin.  There are several point values on each wedge of the wheel (think Wheel of Fortune).  There is also a space on the screen to record points for up to eight teams.  It is easy for the teacher to say a definition or example, and then allow a team to come up with the correct vocabulary term. When correct, the wheel is spun for points.  There is one caveat. The wheel always chooses point values in the same order each time you play, so I suggest rapidly clicking several times to randomize the point values.

The Racing Games

car_racev2aThere are two racing games that Dr. Ertzberger has developed. One features a car race (Beach Rally), and the other is a horse race.  The teacher can divide the class into teams.  Each time a team responds correctly, the teacher can have their car/horse advance forward.  When the car or horse crosses the finish line, a team wins!

Sunken Treasure

sunkentreasurev2Many teachers say that Sunken Treasure is their students’ favorite game.  After student teams identify a term, they can choose a number between 1 and 36 on the game board grid.  Under one of the squares is the sunken treasure.  When it is found, the game ends. There are ten versions of boards to choose from, so the treasure can always be in a different spot.

Although many people may consider PowerPoint “old-school” technology, these games demonstrate innovative ways that PowerPoints can be designed to engage students.  Have you used PowerPoint in a particularly interesting way with students? Do you know of any other sites where PowerPoint Games can be found?  Please share resources and ideas in the comments.

My Experience with World Book Night 2014


If you’ve never heard of it before, World Book Night is an opportunity to spread the love of reading.  It always occurs on April 23rd, Shakespeare’s birthday. Participants sign up online to become book givers, and, if accepted, they receive a box of twenty free books to give to light readers or non-readers.

This year, the media specialists at one of the schools I serve as an instructional coach encouraged the faculty to sign up to be book givers. Eighteen educators were selected as World Book Night givers. Many of the teachers gave books to students in the school.

Participants can enter their top three choices of which books they would like to give when they apply. One of the books was Kitchen Confidential written by celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, long before he was celebrity when he was working daily as a line cook in New York City.  The book is a gritty, edgy, and sarcastic read, but it clearly illustrates to love and passion chefs dedicate to their craft.


I chose to give my books to students in a local program in my area. Students who end their teen years in foster care often struggle in the transition to adulthood.  Eliada’s ESTA program provides these students, who are 18 to 21 years old, with housing, education, and training. They currently have these young adults participate in a culinary program, so that students both learn essential skills for adulthood while also learning a trade that they can use to find work in our city’s tourism-based industry.  Although some of the students are regular readers, some have struggled with literacy and school achievement in the past because of inconsistent home lives.

Instead of giving the books t students on the night of April 23rd, I was invited to participate in a luncheon on April 24th. Eliada hosts a monthly luncheon for people who give to their programs, and the culinary students prepare the meal!  It was awesome!  All of the students were incredibly excited about the books.  One student shared that he had planned on borrowing the audiobook from one of his friends, but now they hopes to read and discuss the book together!  In addition, students were proud to share their successes from the program.  One student recently got his GED and made a perfect score on the math section.  Another student will be entering one our state universities next fall.  This program is really working for these young adults, and I am so happy that I could make my own small contribution the community by sharing the love of literacy.





The Vocab Games: Kahoot!


Imagine your students begging for more vocabulary review.  That is exactly what happens each time I use Kahoot! in the classroom.  If you are unaware of Kahoot, it is an interactive website that turns students’ devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets) into a student response system.  Questions and answer choices are displayed from your projector, and students are able to respond to the questions by using by tapping or clicking on one of the answers displayed on their device.

Check out this video to learn more about Kahoot! and what it looks like in the classroom.

It’s Easy to Use

Unlike many digital tools, students do NOT need to create a log-in to play Kahoot!  When the teacher launches a game, a “game pin” is displayed that enters students into the game.  In addition, creating questions for Kahoot! is fairly straightforward.  If you need help, this online guide can take you through the process step-by-step.  Also, if you want to see an example, this link will take you to a Kahoot! I created with a health science teacher.

Students LOVE It

Nearly every time I have used Kahoot! with students, they have begged to play it again.  What makes it so motivating? Well, there are few things.  In quiz mode, students gain points based on wether they answered correctly and at what speed they answered.  A leaderboard of the top five students is displayed after every question.  In addition, each student’s device informs him or her of which place he or she has after each question. Students also know immediately whether they choose the correct response, and if they didn’t, they lear the correct answer. This immediate feedback motivates students.  In addition, fun music and bright colors make the whole experience fun.  In quiz mode, you can set a timer for how long students all have to respond.  The music becomes increasingly suspenseful  as time begins to run out!

The photo below is me demonstrating a Kahoot! quiz in a world history class.



Not only does Kahoot! provide immediate feedback to students on what they now or don’t know yet, it collects the data for the teacher.  After each game, the teacher can click “Download Results.” Kahoot! then sends a spreadsheet to Microsoft Excel.  The spreadsheet contain each student’s response to each question.  What a great way to know what each student has learned!  In addition, it colors the corrects responses green and the incorrect ones red.  Large columns of red inform me that I need to reteach a word for the whole class.  I can also tell if most students choose the same incorrect response to uncover any student misconceptions that exist.

Kahoot! will engage your students!  To begin creating your own Kahoot!, go to .

Have you used Kahoot!?  Have you experienced it as a player before? Please talk about your experiences in the comments section.

Word Study Uno has been a favorite for reinforcing word study for spelling or morphology (roots, prefixes, and suffixes) knowledge.  Word Study Uno is just one of many fun word study activities in the book Words Their Way by Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, and Johnston.

In the traditional game of Uno, players match numbers or colors to the top card on an incrementally increasing stack.  Once a player lays down all of his or her cards, the game is over.  The first player to lie down all of his or her cards wins.  In addition, there are special cards that make players draw additional cards (Draw Twos), lose turns (Skips), and change the color of the cards to be matched (Wild Cards).


Instead of matching by color or number as in traditional Uno, students match cards by either spelling patterns or morphological structures in Word Study Uno.   Traditional special cards like Skips, Draw Twos, and Wild Cards are integrated into the game as well.

To introduce the game, I ask students if they have ever played Uno before to determine their prior knowledge of the game. I often ask students who have played before to share their understandings of the rules with those who haven’t, offering  clarifications as needed.

The example photos I am including are from a Word Study Uno game used with students who struggled with short and long a spelling patterns.  Some of the words are different from words the students had studied in order for me to assess whether they could transfer spelling pattern knowledge.

Short a CVC


Long a CVCe (Please forgive this one’s “sidewaysness.” I can’t seem to get it oriented correctly!)

Long a CVVC

Other Cards

Students enjoy playing the Word Study Uno game. During this particular game, I asked the students to say the words aloud when they laid them on the table. Students were tentative about this in the beginning. I repeatedly asked them to pronounce the words, and I modeled saying the words as I laid down my cards. Students’ confidence increased, since they began to see that they would be able to pronounce the words correctly based upon the spelling patterns. For instance, bath and bathe made students a bit nervous, but as we discussed that the silent e denoted a long a sound, they tackled other unknown words successfully.

The same process can be used for roots, prefixes, and suffixes as well.  However, one potential morpheme learning activity is building words with cards. My friend and colleague, high school literacy coach Kathy Bonyun (@kathybonyun), developed a game called OPA! (Greek and Latin roots, get it?)  Students must build words from their hands (a little like Scrabble), but they must also lay down prefixes, roots, and suffixes on previously built words to create new words.  The student who is the first to lay down all of his or her cards wins (sort of like Uno).  You can easily create your own hybrid game such as this, or you can pick up a set that Kathy created from her Teachers Pay Teacher site.


Are there card games that use to build students’ word knowledge?  What has worked for your students? What didn’t work?

The Vocab Games: Talk a Mile a Minute/The Pyramid Game

This is the first entry in The Vocab Games! series of blog posts.  New posts will be added every Wednesday throughout the spring.

Talk a Mile a Minute

One of the most effective and engaging vocabulary review games I have used with students is called “Talk a Mile a Minute.”  It is incredibly easy to implement. Here is how it works.

1.  Post a list of vocabulary words from one of your units of study where all of your students can see it.  If you have implemented content vocabulary word walls in your class, you can play Talk a Mile a Minute at any time.  It also makes a great “sponge” activity when you finish a lesson a few minutes early.  Below are two examples of word walls from teachers I work with: one in math and one in chorus


IMG_07592.  Next, ask students to stand, and group themselves into pairs.  One student will face the words (the clue-giver); the other student will face away from the words (the guesser).

3.  The clue-giver will choose a word from the list and give the guesser clues about the word.  Students cannot use the word in their clues.  Based upon experience, I have also added these two “no-no’s”: (1) you cannot give a clue like, “It’s the second word on the list”; or (2) you cannot give a clue such as “It rhymes with motosynthesis.”  Students will find creative ways to have their partners guess the words, but we want the strategies to be content-oriented.

4.  When a the guesser has correctly identified all of the words, the students will switch roles.  With large classes, I ask students to high five when they switch to give me a visual and auditory clue of their progress.  I circulate around the room to help students who are struggling.

5.  Once both players have correctly identified all of the words, they sit down to give me a visual cue that they have finished.  I keep a mental note of the first three or four pairs who sit down.

6.  Once all teams have had an opportunity to identify the words, I call the first team that sat down to come to the front of the room and explain the meanings of each word.  I then ask the class to determine whether the pair really know the meanings of all the words.  This serves two purposes: (1) additional exposures to the words and (2) a system to keep students honest about their word knowledge.  If the first group cannot correctly define the terms, the second group has an opportunity, and then so on until the class is satisfied that a team knows all of the word meanings.

The Pyramid Game

The Pyramid Game is another name for this same game. Some teachers use this title as a reference to the old game show The $25,000 Pyramid which uses a similar format. A social studies teacher I work with always shows a clip from the show on YouTube when first teaching the game to students.

An Episode of The $25,000 Pyramid


Some teachers have students play in teams of four with two students giving clues and two students guessing.  Other teachers prefer using PowerPoint slides to display words rather than use word walls or whiteboards.  They may use the fly-ins feature on PowerPoint to control the pace of the game.

Your Turn:

Have you used this game before? How effective was it for helping your students learn new terms?  What variations have you tried? What issues did you have?  Please comment below to extend the conversation.