I don’t know about you, but sometimes reviewing vocabulary is like pulling teeth. It can get monotonous very quickly for the students – and for you! Fun tools I like to use to practice a variety of subjects are the Clever Catch balls. There are a TON in a bunch of different subjects and skills. They have ice breakers, multiplication practice, the Presidents, and more!
The basic idea is that students can play as a class, small groups, partners, or individually. They toss the ball to one another (or up in the air and catch themselves if playing on their own), and whatever question or concept their right thumb (or whatever you deem the best) lands on is the item they must work out, give the definition for, recite the answer, etc.
The balls are lightweight – aka they can’t hurt each other too much if they get overzealous – and they enjoy tossing it to each other. Never mind the fact they are also learning in the process.
Most teachers don’t have an unlimited budget though, and if you wanted to have several of these balls for small group practice going on at one time, it could get a tad expensive. DIY to the rescue! I made my own version of a Vocabulary Ball that you can also easily replicate and customize for your own classroom!
First you need a simple beach ball in whatever size you like. They are readily available at local big box stores or even at the Dollar Store. You will also need Sharpies in any colors you prefer.
Start with the ball out of the package (my dog refused to get out of every camera shot I tried, so I figured the one where he looks like he is as deflated as the ball was a good option – lol).
Blow up your ball.
Use a sharpie to add words. That’s it!
Now on mine, I added CCSS Vocabulary words from my CCSS Complete Vocabulary Programs on 2 sides. One panel included some of the words from the RL and RI strands, while the blue section included words from the Math Counting and Cardinality strand. I wanted to mix up reading and math on one, but you can choose to do what suit your class the best. As the students toss the ball, they must give the definition of the word their right thumb lands on (or as close to as possible).
Another idea would be to start the year, week, or unit with a clean ball, and then add words as they come up throughout the lessons. Have students practice with the words – even when you are finished. You will be able to have the class continue building that vocabulary, without the backslide that always occurs right after the assessment is complete. Maybe even use it all year for all reading (or science, math, social studies) vocabulary words. Talk about not being able to forget. Constant practice is the key.
One last idea – you could even use these balls in a center. Leave one at the area, along with paper/pencil (or a tape recorder). As the student tosses it in the air and it lands, they can either write down or talk in the tape recorder and give the definition of the word. Accountability at its finest.
Enjoy and have fun making your very own Vocabulary Balls. Other ideas for how to use simple materials to keep vocabulary practice engaging? We would love to hear them in a comment below!