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Multiple Meanings Game


  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

Hunt for the classmate whose definition card leads to the same word as yours.

Brief Description


  • play a game to improve vocabulary and word meaning skills.


word meanings, definition, game, match, meanings, noun, verb

Materials Needed

  • word meaning cards (see instructions and card suggestions below for all grades)

Lesson Plan

In this lesson each student will have a card on which a word's meaning is written. The object of the game is for each student to identify the word that goes with the meaning on his/her card; then the student must find the classmate who holds a card that has another meaning for the same word.

Before the Lesson

Before the lesson you will need to create enough pairs of word-meaning cards (3- x 5-inch cards work great) so that each student will have one card; be sure that each student's card has a companion card on which is written a different definition of the same word. For example, the two word-meaning cards below both refer to the same word -- beat.

To defeat someone in a game on contest.
The regular rhythm of a piece of music.
Create in advance enough cards so that --
  • each student will have a single card and
  • each card has a companion card with a different definition of the same word.

Below are 45 examples of word-meaning pairs that you might use. We have provided

  • 15 pairs of word-meaning cards that we feel might be appropriate for a primary-level (grades 2 and 3) game;
  • 15 cards that would be appropriate for an intermediate-level (grades 4-6) game; and
  • 15 cards that would be appropriate for a middle-school level (grades 6-8) game.
    Of course, you should feel free to select the word-meaning cards that you feel are most appropriate for your students. You might begin by introducing the game at a level below that of your students. Once students understand the game, you can present the more grade-appropriate or challenging cards.

The Game

When you are set to play the game, give each student a card with a word meaning written on it. The students wander the room searching for the classmate who holds the card that has on it a different meaning for the same word. The rules of the game are flexible. You might

  • provide a set amount of time. If a student finds the classmate who has the matching card, they bring their cards to the teacher and, if they are correct, the teacher scores a point for each student.
  • collect the cards and redistribute them and play another round, and another
  • make the game a little more difficult by playing it in silence.

Game Card Suggestions

These are only suggestions; feel free to mix and match from all groups to compile your set of cards. In addition to the 15 pairs of meanings at each level, we have provided 20 additional grade-appropriate words for which you might create cards.

Primary-Level Word Meaning Cards (Grades 2-3)

To defeat someone in a game or contest. (beat)
The regular rhythm of a piece of music. (beat)
The top part of a person's body. (head)
To move toward something. (head)
A piece of paper telling how much you owe. (bill)
The beak of a bird. (bill)
Not weighing very much. (light)
To start a candle or campfire. (light)
The money you get back when you pay for something. (change)
To become different or make different. (change)
A layer of paint. (coat)
A piece of clothing worn to keep you warm. (coat)
A set of playing cards. (deck)
The floor of a boat or ship. (deck)
To use one's car battery to start another car. (jump)
To leap in the air. (jump)
Scraps of paper or other garbage left behind. (litter)
A group of kittens or puppies. (litter)
The season between summer and winter. (fall)
To drop down to the ground. (fall)
A piece of paper used to pay for things at the store. (check)
To look at something to make sure it's OK. (check)
The part of Earth's surface not covered by water. (land)
To come down safely, as a plane does at the airport. (land)
A measure of length equal to 12 inches. (foot)
The part of the body at the end of a leg. (foot)
A person who gets excited about a favorite team or a singing group. (fan)
A machine used to blow cool air. (fan)
A plaster covering for a broken arm or leg. (cast)
To throw your fishing line into the water. (cast)
More words: board, order, safe, ship, tick, park, play, punch, tie, part, rock, seal, sign, spring, wash, watch, sink, school, wave, squash

Intermediate-Level Word Meaning Cards (Grades 4-5)

A knot of ribbon placed on a gift package. (bow)
A curved piece of wood with stretched string, used to shoot arrows. (bow)
To give up eating food for a period of time. (fast)
To move quickly, or in a hurry. (fast)
To ask for something in a restaurant. (order)
To arrange in sequence, alphabetically or numerically. (order)
A piece of material placed over a hole in order to mend it. (patch)
A covering for the eye, it might be worn after surgery. (patch)
A coin worth 25 cents. (quarter)
One of four equal periods in a basketball or football game. (quarter)
To send something a long distance by truck or train. (ship)
A large boat that travels over deep water. (ship)
To stumble over, or fall. (trip)
A journey to a far-off place. (trip)
To collect money for a cause or charity. (raise)
To lift up something. (raise)
To throw someone to the ground in football. (tackle)
The equipment needed for fishing. (tackle)
A wading bird with long legs and a long neck and bill. (crane)
A long-armed machine used to lift heavy objects. (crane)
A mixture used to make cakes or other baked goods. (batter)
In baseball, the player whose turn it is to hit. (batter)
To make a first, rough copy of a story, report, or letter. (draft)
A flow of cold air. (draft)
To move along by turning over and over. (roll)
A small round piece of bread, like a bun. (roll)
A person who listens and makes a decision in a court case. (judge)
To decide who is a winner of a competition. (judge)
A machine for printing. (press)
To push firmly. (press)
More words: odd, page, pound, space, case, dress, model, mine, grade, root, train, will, point, pipe, pack, round, shake, spot, time

Middle-School Word Meaning Cards (Grades 6-8)

To move forward, to make progress. (advance)
To lend money against a person's paycheck or allowance. (advance)
To enter a room rudely or abruptly. (barge)
A flat-bottom boat for transporting goods on a shallow river. (barge)
Happening now, or up-to-date. (current)
The movement of water in the ocean or a river. (current)
Seldom seen or found. (rare)
Meat that is very lightly cooked. (rare)
To put something into something else. (stuff)
Useless or worthless things, junk. (stuff)
A person in charge. (head)
To move toward something. (head)
A chart that lists fact and figures, usually in columns. (table)
A flat-topped piece of furniture on legs. (table)
To come at the end, after everything else. (last)
To go on for a particular length of time. (last)
The flat area of your head above the cheek, in front of the ear. (temple)
A building used for worship. (temple)
To copy a picture by following lines seen through a thin sheet of paper. (trace)
A sign that something has happened, or that someone has been somewhere. (trace)
To defeat unexpectedly, as in an unexpected win in football. (upset)
To make someone nervous or worried. (upset)
A set of matching clothes. (suit)
One of four sets of playing cards; diamonds and clubs, for example. (suit)
To squeeze or wedge something into a tight space. (jam)
A situation in which things, people, or traffic cannot move. (jam)
Flat and smooth, as in the surface of a table. (level)
To flatten, as a tornado might. (level)
A device used to warn someone of danger. (alarm)
To make someone fear that something bad might happen. (alarm)
A person who is dull, uninteresting. (bore)
To make a hole in something with a drill. (bore)
To touch a surface gently with something soft. (dab)
A little bit, as in a little bit of butter. (dab)
More words: foil, inflate, jar, master, pride, scale, stagger, string, credit, frame, harbor, interest, lock, key, express, cure, practice, panel, right, address


Create a follow-up matching activity that reviews some of the words presented above or presents new ones. Have students match each word with the definition provided.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

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