Sample Reading Activities


The following activities and brief descriptions are sample activities to address the various reading components.

These activities may or may not work for your students. Consider whether or not they will be useful to you, how you might modify them for your students, and what other ideas they might suggest.

Vocabulary Activities



Call and response

The teacher, or another student, provides clues about a word, a definition, or a sample sentence with a synonym, and the students in small groups decide which word the teacher is referring to.

Cards on head

A student holds a card containing a new word on his or her head, without looking at it. The partner tries to define or explain the word sufficiently for the first student to guess the word. Then they switch roles.

Contrast / argument responses

Students take a pro or con position on a statement by the teacher and write a rationale for their position. Students use the new words in their written rationale

Create a dictionary

Students create their own dictionaries of words, including definitions and connotations, word parts, and sample uses. (A graphic organizer is a great way to organize information for a dictionary entry.)

Creating word categories

Small groups categorize words by a variety of criteria, such as parts of speech, synonyms, context, or topic.

Definition mapping

Students fill in definitions in text when they encounter words being studied.


During discussion, the teacher asks questions that enable students to use new words, and encourages students to use them when appropriate.

Erase and replace

A form of word swapping, students strike out new words from text and replace them with familiar words or definitions.

Graphic organizers

Using a variety of graphic organizers, such as bubble graphs, students break words into letter–sound combinations, include definitions and uses of the word, and similes and antonyms. (This exact exercise works for phonics, too.)

Identifying context clues

Students study the text surrounding unfamiliar words to identify common phrases, messages, and general sense of a paragraph’s meaning or purpose.


When writing in their reading journals, students use identified new words that are used in the text.

New word search

Students look through text to find specific vocabulary words and study how they are used; students look through text they are about to read to find unfamiliar words, which they study before reading the text.

Opinion essays

Through discussion, students form an opinion on a topic and write an explanation and rationale for their opinion. Students use the new words in their written opinions.

Partner graphic organizers

Partners or small groups complete a graphic organizer of information about a new word, with sample uses, root words, etc.

Response to prompts

Students write short answers to the teacher’s prompts or questions. The teacher develops the questions carefully to ensure that the targeted words can be used in the responses.

Visual representation

Students draw a picture that represents the word definition.

Word mapping

Small groups create a graphic organizer or matched lists of words that have similar meanings.