Scrabble and Other Great Vocabulary Games

Fun word games are very effective learning tools. By having fun, players don’t realize they’ve been learning until long after they figure out who has won! Good word games, whether traditional board games or online games, disguise their educational benefits in their use of vocabulary lists, definitions, and etymology. Importantly, games may also provide a unique way to help those students who otherwise may have difficulty with traditional techniques.

Always remember, games are not a substitute for traditional learning methods – spelling lists, studying definitions, using words in a sentence, comprehension exercises, etc. However, they can be a fun way to review and ingrain words, helping students to master new words in a unique way.

To be educationally effective, though, it is important to keep word games fun – remember it is a game first, an educational tool second. It should be fun, relaxing and played in a “positive” atmosphere. And don’t be afraid to add a little competitive spice to a “family game night” by offering prizes or treats to winners.

Here is a list of great word games that provide family fun and secretly, support the educational process. These games are exceptional tools for vocabulary lessons because each of these games relies heavily on words, definitions, and word associations for strategic play. Individuals interested in winning the game have no choice but to expand their vocabulary while they challenge their opponents.


Scrabble is one of the oldest word games. It has been a family favorite for generations and Scrabble can provide challenges at many competitive levels. To provide the most fun and be the most effective educationally, Scrabble is best when the players have similar educational levels. While online versions of Scrabble can provide individual fun or competitive challenge against others in an online Scrabble community, a family playing a Scrabble board game is still tough to beat. Scrabble: A quick tip: To level the Scrabble playing field between students and adults, try limiting adults to words with a minimum number of letters.

Recommended Age for Scrabble: 8 years old and up (Scrabble Junior for Ages 5 to 7)


Each Bananagrams player works with their own letters, making words at their own level. What makes Bananagrams especially fun is that it is a fast-paced game suitable for various age levels. It doesn’t involve mathematical scoring and players get to yell – it’s part of the game!!! This makes Bananagrams one of the most popular family word-games (In 2007 and 2009, Bananagrams was a “Toy of the Year” winner. A quick tip: To level the Bananagrams playing field between students and adults, try limiting adults to words with three or more letters.

Recommended Age for Bananagrams: 7 years old and up


Boggle is another game where players make words from adjacent letters in a four-by-four grid of letter cubes. Boggle differs from Perquacky in that the letters cannot be physically rearranged to generate ideas. Boggle also uses a small number of letters that makes it a more difficult game.

Recommended Age for Boggle: 8 years old and up


Perquacky is a good game for students in Grade 4 and beyond. Perquacky requires players to race to form words from letters rolled by letter cubes. The element of speed is what makes Perquacky different from other games as the pressure of time helps to develop a student’s quick thinking skills. A quick tip: To level the Perquacky playing field between students and adults, try limiting adults to words with six or more letters.

Recommended Age for Perquacky: 7 and up


Razzle is kind of a cross between Boggle and “Tug-of-War” where players compete to be the first to find a four-letter word from six letters shown on the letter cubes. The process of winning a race results in the automatic re-scrambling of the letter cubes. Each Razzle round goes quickly and there’s a lot of back-and-forth between evenly matched Razzle players.

Recommended Age for Razzle: 8 years old and up


Password is a word association game inspires creativity as players race to guess the secret word based on a series of one-word clues. Players need to intimately understand the secret word in order to effectively offer clues related to it. The object of Password is for one teammate to get the other teammate to say the password given a series of clues. Each time a clue is given, the other player can guess the password. If they get it right the team scores. If they get it wrong, the other team gets to try a clue word. It goes back and forth: the score you get is higher if you guess it on the first clue, reduced by one point for each incorrect guess.

Recommended Age for Password: 12 years old and up


Pictionary requires players to draw a series of related words instead of the word itself. Pictionary focuses attention on word relationships and definitions rather than guessing. Other ways to make these Pictionary more challenging as an educational tool include adding time limits, creating smaller teams, requiring individual play, or adding other related tasks.

The team chooses one person to begin drawing; this position rotates with each word. The drawer chooses a card out of a deck of special Pictionary cards and tries to draw pictures which suggest the word printed on the card. The pictures cannot contain any numbers or letters. The teammates try to guess the word the drawing is intended to represent.

Recommended Age for Pictionary: 7 years old and up


Taboo is a word guessing game. The object of Taboo is for a player to have his/her partner(s) guess the word on his/her card without using the word itself or five additional words listed on the card. Taboo can be quite challenging and is sometimes used in the classroom as part of an introduction to materials for teaching English.

Recommended Age for Taboo: 12 years old and up


Balderdash is a game about making sense of what seems to be nonsense. That is, players invent phony definitions for each word in play that could be mistaken by the other players as the correct definition.
In fact, Balderdash players are not expected to know the real answers to any of the questions in the game as the primary objective is to make up answers that will bluff other players. Balderdash points are awarded for fooling other players, as well as for choosing the real and often unbelievable answer.

Recommended Age for Balderdash: 9 years old and up


Upwords is Scrabble with a twist, that is, Upwords is similar to Scrabble except that letters can be stacked on top of other words to create new words. The higher the stack of letters, the more points are scored. This often makes words built in later turns of the game more valuable than earlier words, increasing play intensity.

Recommended Age for Upwords: 8 years old and up

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