Using Painted Jenga Blocks for A Fun Vocabulary Game

Amazon is my go-to app for just about everything online shopping! I mean, I’ve even ordered groceries using Amazon Pantry and it’s amazing, speedy and super convenient.  One of the things I absolutely love about Amazon is their Amazon Prime Service. Seriously, if you are not a Prime member, you are missing out on next-day shipping and for me, it’s soooo worth it!

Let me tell you about a fun vocabulary game using colored wooden blocks I ordered from Amazon called Lewo Tumbling Tower.  As Marzano says,
“Games are the most underutilized educational resource” and when I read that, I thought, we need to do something about this! Kids love games, but kids don’t always love learning things in the same old routine ways.  When you add the GAME spin to learning, kids have a whole new buy-in. Kids love to play in general, and no matter how old you are, games are always fun, no matter what people say. 

Vocabulary Jenga is a game to reinforce Tier 3 vocabulary. Tier 3 vocabulary is content-specific, only read and used when learning about THAT content. In other words, when you’re in SCIENCE class, you might use words like photosynthesis or ecosystem, but more that likely, you won’t use those words in everyday conversation.  Learning content area words are KEY for content knowledge and understanding, and learning important concepts like electricity, life cycles and properties of matter. Content area vocabulary knowledge also helps them grow as readers and writers too, because these words are often multisyllabic and contain Greek and Latin word parts that help them solve new words.  Marzano says that students need to learn 6-9 content area words per subject per quarter. (See my blog post about Marzano’s 6 Steps for Vocabulary Instruction). Step 6 is GAMES.  Games that practice and reinforce the vocabulary words in a fun and engaging way.  And Vocabulary Jenga does just that. Not to mention that it’s best played in pairs and within a group of students.  I always love games that also work on the soft skills of the 21st century…like communication, cooperation, following the rules, and praising one another even if you don’t win. (See my Praise Phrases if you want to encourage your students to praise each other with immediate positive feedback.)

Once the teacher prints the Jenga Vocabulary sheet and writes in 6 content area vocabulary words, students work in pairs to cooperatively complete the whole sheet as a team.  It's actually really fun to play this game in whole group teams to see which team can complete their sheet first and accurately.  Complete directions and free download are HERE.

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Jen is a K-12 Reading Specialist, Curriculum Writer and Staff Developer and author of the website, Hello Literacy, Inc. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and two daughters. She provides professional development to schools and districts all over the country in best practices for 21st century literacy instruction. If your school or district is in need of professional development in literacy, please email her at  Her curriculum resources are available at  

*Disclaimer: Jen Jones is not affiliated with Amazon, nor is she receiving any money or gifts for promoting this product.


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