If you’re a secondary teacher, you know how important student motivation is. The school year can feel lonnnnggggg and often students more than have the ability to succeed, but their motivation comes and goes. I never saw that more than when teaching vocabulary.
Just mentioning the word “vocabulary” seemed to make my students’ eyes roll and glaze over. I’m a social studies teacher, though, and understanding vocabulary is essential to student learning. When I thought about what most motivates my students, I immediately thought of competition. Any review game we played where students were competing was always intense.
Football was also huge at my school. Every Monday, if students and teachers aren’t talking about Friday’s game, they’re talking about college football or the NFL. So, I planned out a way to combine all of this — football, competition, and vocabulary — to create one of my students’ favorite activities: The Vocabulary Football League (VFL)!
This can be used in social studies, geography, English, a foreign language, you name it!
Here’s how it works….
At the beginning of the year, I place students on teams of 4 (3 or 5 also works depending on your class load), and create a schedule. There are some great simple free schedule-makers online, including Playpass and League Lobster.
Students are given sets of 10-15 vocabulary words each week. I print them out in sets of 6 to a page that I cut up in strips and have students paste in their notebooks (see the example photo to the left).
We’ll then cover those terms in our lessons that week and students are responsible for defining the words in their notebooks. They can ether get the definitions from our lesson, look them up in a textbook, or find them online.
Monday is game day! To make it exciting, I’ll have the Monday Night Football or Fox Sports theme playing as they’re walking in. Students take a vocabulary quiz based on those words from the previous week.
My quizzes are very short — just 10 questions and designed to only take the first 15 minutes or so of class.
I make the answer sheet very easy to grade. I start grading them as soon as the first student hands it in. The answer sheet allows me to grade them quickly, so I can and usually have most graded before the last student even finishes!
Each student’s score goes towards their grade, but they also get combined to make their team’s score. So, if the 4 students on the Giants combine for a 32 and they’re playing the Panthers who scored a combined 31, then the Giants win!
So simple, but so fun!
I knew I had caught on to something when students began to tell their teammates, “You better do all your vocabulary this week. I don’t want to lose!”
They would get so competitive! These are vocabulary quizzes and my students actually looked forward to them! Students would pop back in the next period to see if they won and check the updated standings I had on our bulletin board.
Each year, I make a few changes and find ways to differentiate based on my class levels.
For my team-taught inclusion classes, students can take the quiz using their notebook page with the definitions (if they did them that week). I found this is a great motivational tool. When a student who didn’t complete his vocabulary that week opens to a blank notebook page, his teammates will let him have it. It also encouraged more critical thinking on answers than just memorization of terms.
For my on-level classes, I will often project a word bank, but don’t allow them to use their notebooks. My honors classes might not get the help of either.
You can have your “season” last as long as you like. I usually go about 12 weeks then move on to the playoffs and culminate with a Super Bowl.
The playoffs have teams playing against teams in other classes, which gets a lot of of fun. Teams that lose still take the quizzes, but they’ll just count towards their individual grades.
I’ll get a prize for the winning team like Chipotle gift cards or pizza after school. 🙂
This VFL strategy has been a huge success for my classes and I am sure it will be for yours as well!
If you teach World or US History, you can join Students of History! and get Vocabulary Football and Basketball games all planned out and ready for you! When you join, you actually get immediate access to hundreds of teaching resources for immediate download.
There are also tons of primary source resources, project based learning, interactive notebooks, PowerPoints, Google Drive Digital notebooks, engaging class activities, and more. You can join the US History or World History site and have lesson plans for every single day of the school year at your finger tips.
Students of History is off-the-charts on creativity and engaging students in active learning. I am so excited to integrate these resources into my plans. All of his material is well-constructed & organized for the year. In addition to saving me a tremendous amount of time, these materials will be like an adrenaline shot to my students' day! Could not be happier!
"I have both the US and the World curriculum bundles so I have all the other interactive notebook pages and I think this bunch is THE BEST one that you have created so far!! Love, love, LOVE your products and more importantly so do my students! Keep it up!"
THIS IS TRULY INSPIRED!!! This changed the way my students thought of and interacted with their community, and it changed the way I thought of myself as their teacher. One of my students even ended up on the news for raising over $500 for the local homeless shelter because of this assignment! What a great way to teach citizenship! Not to mention, this package is so complete and detailed, it guides the students through the process of community service. Commendable!
I've taught for 15 years and this notebook is AMAZING!! Thank you so much for the student sample photos. They really helped me see "the end result".
LOVED this bundle! This was my first year teaching American History for my 8th graders (I actually teach science and social studies), and this was a life saver when trying to come up with meaningful lessons/activities that were not boring. The interactive notebooks created great visuals for my students. I will definitely be looking at purchasing the civil war bundle. Thanks!
When you know something is right, you always go back to it. That's the case with these US History bundles from Students of History. Having purchased a couple of these bundles, I found a great deal of the material HIGHLY useful in putting together my syllabus. If you are wondering if you could use this material, don't wonder any more! You will NOT find a better bundle than this one. Thank you very much for all the hard work!
"This was a truly exceptional activity. My students really get into this lesson, and we had a lively debate and discussion about the trials and the accused. Thank you for making this valuable and practical resource available! I will use this in the future I am sure."
Awesome! Your shop is always the first place I come to for social studies resources. My students are excited to start our unit on the 20's and 30's and WWII and these resources are going to make them even more excited. Thanks!
Fabulous! Engaging and fun, but also very informative. I like the fact that my 8th graders will get to cut and paste with this activity...they don't often get to do that sort of thing, but I still think it's fun to do. Thanks for a creative, imaginative lesson!!
"These Google Drive IN's have changed my teaching. Sure, I've bought this seller's complete hard copy version IN set for World History and almost all of his USH IN's ... but this timesaver is worth the investment. If you're trying Google Classroom this next year, don't question it... just get them. :-)"
Wonderful resource full of so many engaging, higher order thinking activities. Well organized handouts / activity sheets. Nice work!
Very organized! I was very very very hesitant about spending so much money on a single source. So glad I did! Text selections are good quality. Most are appropriate for older grades if you want students to work on their own and be challenged. For my 8th graders we will be walking through most of the text selections together. PowerPoints are very well done. Their is usually an AP type of presentation along with a "regular" ed PowerPoint. The regular version is not watered down just simplified with not as much detail. The ONLY thing I would add is a note taking guide for the PowerPoints. This is something I can do myself, however I just assumed they would be present in the bundle. Overall a fantastic product! If I ever change subjects I won't hesitate to come buy a new bundle!
My first time teaching World History is going to be sooo much less stressful. The students will love the lessons. The resources are amazing. Thanks.
So many of these are going to be just perfect for me. I know exactly what lesson they need to follow. Really appreciate the time and energy you put into making these. I've tried to make quite a few on my own and its time consuming. Your work is appreciated and worth the money! Thanks a lot. Great product.
This was an outstanding purchase! I needed a fun break and this activity really fit the bill. Super easy to set up and explain, it gets students actively involved and benefits multiple different learning styles. The most important thing is that the kids LOVE it!!
"This was an outstanding purchase! I needed a fun break and this activity really fit the bill. Super easy to set up and explain, it gets students actively involved and benefits multiple different learning styles. The most important thing is that the kids LOVE it!!"
"I absolutely loved this and so did the kids. I now have three students completely obsessed with Alexander Hamilton and especially the musical!"
This is arguably the best station activity I've done yet. Students enjoyed doing different activities at each station and not knowing what they were going to have to do next. Very engaging.
I am so happy that I purchased this! I'm a special ed teacher and have co-taught US and World History for many years, but last February I was assigned to teach a small group of middle school students in a separate class and feel like I just, "got through". Using this resource, I have put together a solid plan for the first quarter that will give my kids lots of hands on experiences and, I can use some of the resources to support my juniors who need to pass the US History Regents exam to graduate. Thanks so much Luke....great work that I am happy to support! I'll be back for the World History bundle in a couple of years!
This is simply AMAZING! While I am not a new teacher, I am teaching 8th grade U.S. History for the first time as well as AVID and ELA. This has saved me 4382 HOURS of work and my students will thank you for it!! This product is one of the best I've purchased here on TPT!! As a long-time TPT seller myself, I know how important meaningful feedback is and I want your potential buyers to know that this is worth for more than the price tag!!! THANK YOU!