Teaching (and learning) new vocabulary through games is my favourite way to expand vocabulary in little learners’ minds! Currently I’m at the intermediate level in my German studies and I wish someone would play vocabulary games with me!
For teaching new vocabulary to my little English students I most often use games. I make a lot of them from free printable I find on line. For very young children who are just beginning in English, animals are great first words. Buggy and Buddy has some wonderful animal cards that are totally free, you don’t even have to give an email!
You can use a set of vocabulary cards for many different games. I like to start out with the game Memory to introduce new vocabulary. Every time a child turns over a card I say the word, and I encourage them to say it as well, but I don’t require them to speak on the first introduction to the words. Once I think they can remember the word when I says it, then it’s time to move on to a game that requires them to pull the word from their own head and pronounce it.
Charades is perfect for this, because the children don’t have to use any sentences, just say the word in English. If they say it in a different language then it doesn’t count. Charades also brings in movement for those of us (like myself) that need physical, tactile kind of memory support.
Finally, I move on to games that require the children to use the word in a sentence, that is of course, if they are old enough to form a complete sentence. If you are teaching two year olds, for example, and they can’t form sentences in their first language, then expecting them to do so in a second language is ridiculous. My favourite game for forming a complete sentence with new vocabulary is Go Fish. “Do you have a lion?” “No I don’t, go fish” (draw a card). What is good about Go Fish is that if a child can’t remember a word they can show the card to the group and get some help remembering the word.
For children that can read or mixed age groups, I use cards without the words printed underneath. Some children won’t be diligent enough to memorise the word when they can just read it!
Here are links to the game rules, and also a link to a beautiful little set of wooden memory blocks for little learners. These would be great because you could use them for all three games. I own a similar set that I found at the second hand shop and love them!
Wooden Memory Game on Amazon