Resources needed:

  • Personal dictionaries (one per child)
  • Unusual words written on cards
  • Word meaning chart
  • Unusual word with three possible meanings.


  1. Explain to the class that they will be expanding their vocabulary and have a brief discussion with the class as to why that is so important, e.g. to improve writing; derive more meaning from books etc.
  2. Give each group of children a selection of dictionaries and ask them to open one each on a random page. They should choose a word they don’t know and read its meaning. Ask one child per group to give you their word (write it on board) and then explain the meaning. Did anyone already know the word? Can we identify any root words/prefixes/suffixes within it which may help us work out its meaning?
  3. Now ask the children to put the dictionaries in a pile out of reach and give each child a word card. Ask the children, collaborating if necessary, to have a reasoned attempt at working out the meaning of each of the words. They should record their ideas for each word meaning in a chart.
  4. Let the children use their dictionaries again to find out the actual meanings of their words, which they can then compare and record next to their guesses.

Teaching point: using dictionaries correctly may not come easily to some children and you may have to spend some time in the session revising the correct way to look up words.

  1. Show the children an example of ‘Call My Bluff’ which involves one word with three potential meanings. Ask each group to choose some unusual words from their dictionaries and create three meanings for them (ensuring of course that one is actually true!)
  2. Use the words/meanings to play a class game of ‘Call My Bluff’. Write their word somewhere clearly and then invite three children from the group to offer potential meanings. The class should vote on the meaning they think is correct. Which team is best at fooling the class?


Further Activities:

Create a word wall made from unusual words discovered by the children. Write the words and leave post-it notes handy for the children to proffer suggested meanings.

Organise the class into four teams. Each time a child presents you with an unusual word and its meaning, they score a point. Teams could score extra points for using the word in their own writing, or remembering the meaning of a word discussed more than four weeks ago.

Give each child an unusual word and ask them to ‘illuminate’ it along the lines of illuminated letters from the middle ages.  See examples of this at

Curriculum Areas covered:

During years 5 and 6, teachers should continue to emphasise pupils’ enjoyment and understanding of language, especially vocabulary, to support their reading and writing.

Pupils should understand nuances in vocabulary choice and age-appropriate, academic vocabulary. This involves consolidation, practice and discussion of language.

When teachers are reading with or to pupils, attention should be paid to new vocabulary – both a word’s meaning(s) and its correct pronunciation.


Understand what they read by:

  • checking that the book makes sense to them, discussing their understanding and exploring the meaning of words in context