Tag Archives: domain-specific

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.