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Lesson Plan #:AELP-VOC000
Author: Mark Quinn
School or Affiliation: Caldwell Seventh Day Adventist School, Caldwell, Idaho
Endorsed by: These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops. Date: May 1994

Grade Level (s): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Subject (s):

  • Language Arts/Vocabulary


The Dictionary Game (also called Balderdash) is an activity I use to introduce new vocabulary words from content areas. In order for the game to work all students playing the game must be completely ignorant as to the definition of the word being used.


Learning new vocabulary words is a tedious and boring process, but it’s also a necessary activity. This game is one way to take the boring out of the process. When learning is fun, students remember what they learned longer.

Objective (s):

Students will learn new vocabulary words that are to be used in an upcoming unit. Students will also practice writing in a style different from any others they have tried (dictionary style).


The words and their definitions plus enough identical pieces of paper to go around.

Activities and Procedures:

(how to play the game)

  • The teacher chooses a word that no student can define.
  • Each student (or group of students if teacher chooses to play in teams) will write a made-up definition for the word in question and the teacher will write the real definition. All of the definitions must be written on identical pieces of paper so that the paper doesn’t become the clue.
  • All definitions are turned into the teacher and read by him/her. Then instruct each student to vote for a definition when the teacher reads them through the second time.
  • Points are scored in two ways:
    1. someone votes for your definition as the real one (one point per vote).
    2. you vote for the correct definition.
  • The winner is the student with the most points.
  • Tying It All Together:

    The game is the most fun when the players get creative and humorous with their made-up definitions. The teacher needs model definitions so that students can see how to do it.