Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Last Saturday I planned my week out in detail, as usual. It is highly unlikely that my week will go exactly as planned. However, I like having at least a framework for my week early on. It saves me time in the long run. Anyway, that is only partially the point. Yesterday afternoon I was reminded about a short assembly that was set to happen during one of my classes. Well, call me crazy, but I teach the same thing all day long. Yes, that's right. Four times a day I teach the exact same lesson. Soooo, with the assembly taking up only one of the four classes, I had to make a quick decision: go with the plan and get my classes off schedule or improvise!

Enter: Math Vocabulary Taboo! I had heard about this before but I wasn't exactly sure how to play or what to do. So here is how it went in my room. I quickly made 10 sets of index cards (enough for 10 pairs). The index card had the vocabulary word and then three words/phrases that were not allowed to be used a.k.a. the "taboo" phrases. (They also couldn't use the actual vocabulary word or spell or say "starts with" or "rhymes with"...that all made it too easy.) For example:

  • slanted
  • steepness
  • skiing
 I moved the desks into pairs (similar to speed dating). I gave one partner the cards they were the "clue giver" and the other partner was the "detective". For the first two rounds of the game they were allowed to use their vocabulary squares to help. I put four minutes on the timer and let them go. After the timer went off I had the "clue giver" hand the cards to the "detective". The "clue giver" switched partners and then we played another round. After two rounds they had to put their vocabulary squares away and then we played a few rounds without the crutch. I had 10 total vocabulary words and it took the students 3-4 minutes each round. I imagine the more "common" the taboo words are the harder this game is to play. My goal was to take out all the obvious/common words so that they really had to think about the word and its meaning.

It was AWESOME! I'm not even kinda kidding. I loved this activity and I plan to do it again for the next unit. This was higher order thinking if I have ever seen it. The kids were all engaged and having a great time trying to come up with clever ways to describe the words. I had students coming up with sports illustrations, music, kinesthetic...you name it. The kids were so very creative.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone that is struggling with finding interesting ways to talk about and teach content vocabulary.

1 comment:

  1. Love this idea, and from the sound of your post, the students loved it, too! Thanks for sharing the details!!!