Word Play with Flip Boards

By on January 27, 2015

One of my favorite word play activities is called Flip Boards. Students apply their knowledge of new vocabulary to answer questions about the words. Students enjoy this activity because it is interactive and allows them to experience new words in a non-threatening way. We play! We sometimes laugh. At the end of the activity, students have a better understanding of their vocabulary words.

Set up the boards
I named this activity after the boards themselves. Students write information on a board and "flip" them up so that my student and I can what has been written on them. Some teachers like to use mini-whiteboards (there are a number of ways to make these). I use what I call a "poor man's white board." Whenever I use the term "poor man's" in class I am referring to something I have made.

Here is how to make your very own "poor man's" whiteboard. First, you must know that they are not white. They can be, but I choose to use bright colored card stock. Slide the a piece of card stock into a clear, report sleeve and place a small piece of tape over the the opening so that the card doesn't slide out. In a few seconds you have a "poor man's" whiteboard. 

These flip boards will last you all year if you tell students to be gentle when writing and erasing. Can you guess what I use for a "poor man's" whiteboard eraser? Yep, a tissue or paper towel. 

Here is how it works
Students have a board and a dry erase marker (buy them on Amazon). I talk about one word at a time. When students know the word, they write it on the flip board and wait until I say, "Show me." These are the two magic words. "Show me" let's my students know that it is time to flip their boards and hold them high so that I can see what they have written. If they are correct, I point and say, "Erase." This is important because I want the students who answered correctly to keep their answers shielded from the rest of the class. If they have guessed incorrectly, I say, "Think about it." This is a nice way of saying, "No." But it is more than that. "Think about it" tells them that they are still expected to have an answer. At this point, all students are erasing their words. The students who answered correctly will have a blank board in front of them. The students who answered incorrectly have to try again. They will look around for an answer but the correct answers have been erased. Brilliant! (Thanks Pam for this amazing addition to this activity!) 

Lately, I have been asking my students to run this activity. Here is how to make this a student led activity. Caution: Students need to practice these routines with their teacher before running the activity on their own.

One student leader stands at the front of the room. He or she talks about one word at a time. He or she can give a definition and ask students to write the word down on the flip board or give a word and ask students to write the definition.


When they are in a whole group, the student leader can also read a sentence that contains the vocabulary word and leave it out. The students think about the context clues in the sentence and guess the word that goes in the blank.

After students have played with words as a whole group, I like to break them into pairs. Here are some things the pairs can do.

First, have them sit back to back. Each student needs a flip board. Students can take turns... 

  • guessing the meaning of words.
  • spelling words correctly.
  • defining the words.
  • drawing the words (think Pictionary).
  • giving a real world example of the word (most challenging)

Try this activity. Play with words. Your students will have fun and will not need to cram for those pesky vocabulary tests at the end of the week. Learn more things to do with words in our Skill Library.  

Did you know we have academic support classes designed to accelerate students' ability to read closely and write with evidence? Learn more about our Middle/High School ZAP and EL ZAP classes.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend at LiteracyTA University winter session hosted at CSUSM. Get ready to be inspired!

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
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