Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Vocab Quizzes

My students get a lot of vocabulary quizzes. Often they are simple matching or multiple choice (something I can make quickly using an awesome site that let's you quickly make quizzes AND randomly organize the questions (so you can easily make different versions of the same test!). 

It is a great site that I often use, however it isn't my favorite ways of doing voabulary tests.

I actually prefer more subjective tests (and in my opinion slightly more fun).

For example: A recent unit in my college course had these vocabulary words: merit, handicap, reticent, phobia, extroverted, adverse, kindred, aloof, syndrome, chronic, misattribution, condescending.

One of my questions may be: Select the most positive vocabulary word and write it below. Include a brief explanation of why you think it is the most positive.

Possible answers could be:
  • I think the most positive is aloof because if someone if aloof then they don't care what other people think and they can be self sufficient.
  • Kindred is positive because if two people are kindred then they have a lot of things in common and they will probably become best friends, which is the most positive thing ever.
 Another fun one to give a quasi-random picture and have them match a word and explain:
Graffiti of a can of spray paint
  • Misattribution, because people think graffiti isn't art, but it is.
  • Handicap, because the spray bottle can't spray paint like other cans so it is handicapped.
  • The picture shows the chronic problem of graffiti in Culiacan.
I like to give one or two questions like this (but they can't repeat a word) in addition to a few multiple choice/  matching/ true or false. 

Some students HATE these questions. They much prefer memorizing, other students really like them (as they get a chance to try and make something up if they don't know.

As for teachers? A lot of teachers appreciate the fact it makes students think (rather than just memorize and spit out). Some don't like the way there are multiple possible answers. Others think a student could just know two or three words really well and then make those work for any question, but I stand by my thinking that it makes students apply their knowledge in a new way.

How about you? How do you quiz vocabulary?


  1. I like to use images on vocabulary quizzes. Usually I provide the image and ask students to match or provide the vocabulary word. If we're dealing with a large or somewhat personalized/subjective list, then I'm always ready for surprise interpretations of the images I've selected. Other times, I'll ask students to doodle/draw vocabulary words (for example, in an animal unit, I provided words like paw, tail, feather...)

    Thanks for this post! I'm always looking for new twists to present/review/test vocabulary acquisition!

    Mme Aiello @ Teaching FSL

    1. I love that you are sure to use visual cues as well! And I agree with you on getting ready for surprised interpretations. I usually end up with at least a few giggles :)


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