Saturday, September 9, 2017

Teach Content Vocabulary With Football!

Luke Rosa, a social studies teacher in Virginia, developed an interesting way to teach vocabulary. Below, he explains how he does it.
Courtesy of Luka Rosa

Student Teams

Here’s how it works.

I place students on teams of 4 (3 or 5 also works depending on your class load), and create a schedule. There are some great simple free schedule-makers online, including Playpass and League Lobster.

Students are given sets of 10-15 vocabulary words each week. I print them out in sets of 6 to a page that I cut up in strips and have students paste in their notebooks (see the example photo to the left).

We’ll then cover those terms in our lessons that week and students are responsible for defining the words in their notebooks. They can ether get the definitions from our lesson, look them up in a textbook, or find them online.
Game Day!

Game Day

Monday is game day! To make it exciting, I’ll have the Monday Night Football or Fox Sports theme playing as they’re walking in. Students take a vocabulary quiz based on those words from the previous week.

My quizzes are very short — just 10 questions and designed to only take the first 15 minutes or so of class. I make the answer sheet very easy to grade. I start grading them as soon as the first student hands it in. The answer sheet allows me to grade them quickly, so I can and usually have most graded before the last student even finishes!


Each student’s score goes towards their grade, but they also get combined to make their team’s score.

So, if the 4 students on the Giants combine for a 32 and they’re playing the Panthers who scored a combined 31, then the Giants win! So simple, but so much fun! I knew I had caught on to something when students began to tell their teammates, “You better do all your vocabulary this week. I don’t want to lose!” They get so competitive!

These are vocabulary quizzes and my students actually looked forward to them! Students would pop back in the next period to see if they won and check the updated standings I had on our bulletin board.


Each year, I make a few changes and find ways to differentiate based on my class levels. For my team-taught inclusion classes, students can take the quiz using their notebook page with the definitions (if they did them that week). I found this is a great motivational tool. When a student who didn’t complete his vocabulary that week opens to a blank notebook page, his teammates will let him have it. It also encouraged more critical thinking on answers than just memorization of terms. For my on-level classes, I will often project a word bank, but don’t allow them to use their notebooks. My honors classes might not get the help of either.

The Super Bowl 

You can have your “season” last as long as you like. I usually go about 12 weeks then move on to the playoffs and culminate with a Super Bowl. The playoffs have teams playing against teams in other classes, which gets a lot of of fun. Teams that lose still take the quizzes, but they’ll just count towards their individual grades. I’ll get a prize for the winning team like Chipotle gift cards or pizza after school.

This VFL strategy has been a huge success for my classes and I am sure it will be for yours as well!

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