I swiped this idea from somebody I ran across on Pinterest and riffed on it to suit my classroom. It’s proven very popular with my students and is another of those time-killers you can pull out if the kids finish a test early or are simply too goofy to pay attention to a conventional lesson.
It’s pretty simple: Take a Jenga game (I found an off-brand version at the dollar store for $5) and use a Sharpie to write a vocabulary word on each block. I have two versions — one featuring literary terms I pulled from a Marzano list, and one featuring prefixes and Greek and Latin roots. I use the latter more often than the former, because I think it’s more useful across the curriculum, whereas the Marzano words rarely show up outside English class.
Play proceeds as normal, with one exception: When the kids pull a block from the stack, they have to read the word on it and try to define it. If they get the word right, the person to their left has to restack the block. If they get it wrong, they have to restack it themselves. With its emphasis on eye-hand coordination, the game is particularly engaging for tactile learners, and we’ve had a lot of laughs playing it over the past year or so. It’s a good way to help kids learn vocabulary without having to endure the drudgery of rote memorization.