Easy Prep Word Study Games

Hi! It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy. I'm here today to share a few ideas for easy prep word study games you can use with any word cards or word features. Cathy wrote a great post a few weeks ago on making word study meaningful, so make sure you check out her post if you haven't already.

As a classroom teacher with a zillion things on my to do list I appreciate easy prep activities. I'm not talking about worksheets that are print and go, but truly engaging educational activities. If you are currently using Words Their Way, Word Journeys, or another word study program then your students already have word cards to use in these game ideas. The following games are automatically differentiated for each group when the students use their own word cards to play. 

An important part of word study is making sure that students are understanding the generalizations and features.  Traditional spelling activities like rainbow writing and stamping may be fun for the kids, but true word study games should help students focus on comparing and contrasting the word features, not just provide memorization practice. 

At the beginning of the year I teach my students the "generic" word study game rules. Once they understand the concept, this game can be slightly changed to add new novelty while still keeping the same rules and routines. Here are the basic word study game directions.

Now on to the fun part! Here are a few variations using the basic game directions and student word cards.

1. Gameboards
When students get a feature match they roll and move on the game board. I bet every teacher has a bunch of old game boards in your room that you can turn into word study games.

2. Erasers
Any Target dollar spot addicts out there? When students get a word feature match they take a fun themed eraser. Whoever has the most at the end wins. Don't these eraser hearts totally look like the real candies?

3. Math Manipulatives
What? Use math manipulatives for word study??? When students get a word feature match they add a unifix cube to try to see who can get the tallest stack. Or take a pattern block. Or take a link. You get the idea.

4. Dollar Tree Games
The Dollar Tree is great for having seasonal tic tac toe games or 2 player plastic race to the top games. When students get a word feature match they get to place an x or o or move their player forward 1 space.

5. Seasonal Cooperative Games
These take {a little} prep but they are a fun way to have students work together for a common goal. There is one large paper shape and students add something to it when they get a feature match. Examples include: a pumpkin with black triangles to make a jack-o-lantern, a turkey body with feathers, a Christmas tree with ornaments. If you are fortunate to have large die cuts, they work great for this.  If not, it takes about 5 minutes to cut out a shape. 

6. Drawing Games
Recently we played "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?". Until this year the game was just called "Draw a Snowman" but the excitement factor got bumped up thanks to Frozen! If students got a feature match they got to draw a part on their snowman. I just gave them a blank piece of paper {super low prep} and they got to choose what to add to their snowman {student choice for high engagement}. These were by no means works of art, but the kids had fun while practicing their words.

7. Dry Erase Games
Ok, I did make these to use in my class, but once they were made they became low prep. I just change out the seasonal boards each month. When students get a feature match they write the feature on the game board in the dry erase pocket (or page protector). The first player to get to the end or fill up their side of the board wins. You can grab a free copy of "Shadow Shuffle" because Groundhog Day will be here before you know it!

So there you have it. 7 low prep variations on the same game, all focusing on word features. I usually provide several of these games as options to give the students choice. I store them in a 10 drawer cart and change them out monthly. Students just pick a game, grab their words and play. Easy peasy.

A few closing remarks...
  • ·       Make sure the biggest focus is on word study, not the game. The game should be simple enough to compliment the feature practice.
  • ·         Continually change out the games to keep the students engaged. A lot of these games can be adapted for a holiday or month. Same rules, just a new look.
  • ·         You can add an accountability piece to the games by having students write the words they read on a recording sheet or word study notebook.  
I hope you got a few new word study ideas to work smarter not harder while kicking your word study games up a notch. What are your favorite word study games?  Leave us a comment- we love hearing new ideas!


  1. Love these game ideas! Thanks for sharing them and the fact that they are so easy and low prep!

    And I love the reminder that the kids should focus on the word study part and not just the game play.

    Reading Toward the Stars

  2. Jen, I love these games ideas. They are a perfect compliment to my word study post earlier this month. Can't wait to share these.

  3. These are fabulous ideas, and all so easy to make. Sharing on my FB page today.

  4. Thank you so much for all of these great game ideas.