Vocabulary Games: Oranges to Oranges
I love party games. When I had the epiphany that my students and I could play one of my favorite party games with our vocabulary words, I realized I now had a legitimate edu-tainment to play on “those days”-the day after the AP test, the shortened period where one class has an hour and another class has 30 minutes, the day first period is extended by 20 minutes and the students get too restless to concentrate.
Having been playing Oranges to Oranges Vocabulary Game for the last few years now, I and my students have come to enjoy (and learn from!) the anomalous days we break out the cards, and I find that even the recalcitrant students end up with a grin on their faces.
For those not familiar with this board-game-without-a-board, here's how it's traditionally played.
Five to seven players are dealt five red cards that are all nouns (a random selection of cards include “Airline Food”, Watching Football”, “Choir Boys” “Bald Eagles” and “The NRA”). A pile of green adjective cards is then placed in the middle.
The person who starts pulls a green card from the middle deck –these are adjectives and contain words like, “Unforgettable” with synonyms written underneath: “notable, impressive and remarkable”. Every other player must then decide which of his/her red cards the starter would mostly likely consider “unforgettable.”
The starter receives a red card face down from everyone, shuffles them to retain players’ anonymity, turns them over, and chooses a winner.
Whoever wins gets to hold on to the green card and the player to the left of the starter selects a new green card (perhaps “Cheerful”).
Then, everyone else decides which red card the new person would most likely consider “cheerful”. The game continues until one person earns seven green cards.
The vocabulary twist is to make the green adjective cards our vocabulary words. You can have students make them either using index cards, cardstock, or use my template (see attached). Have students write out the word in BOLD, then write the synonyms underneath in smaller, but still easy to read, lettering.
When completed, grab your box of Mattels "Apples to Apples" (purchased at any local Target or perhaps a student/teacher is willing to bring in their box) and start play, substituting your green cards for the ones in the deck.
I tend to divide my room into groups of five, so the game moves quickly and students maintain focus. For the one student who just refuses to play/engage with other students, ask that s/he watch one group and write down her/his own choices for which noun best works with each adjective (does s/he agree or disagree with each round’s choice?).
You can dictate how many cards one needs to “win” depending on your time constraints, and award “prizes” as you see fit.
As you walk around (or insert yourself into a game), you will hear laughter, groans, cheering and a general cacophony of happy players. My favorite moment is when someone flips over a new green card and says “I don’t know what that word means” and another teammate looks at it and says “Really? That one means…”. With Vocabulary Games: Oranges to Oranges, students learn together and from each other and don’t even realize it!
 Who does not get to play a red card, FYI.
 There are variations to these rules in the Apples to Apples instructions, and I have found different students (and teachers) play in different ways. I’ll let you experiment.
 Note: you will only want to use the adjectives in your vocabulary list for the green cards; you could inserts the nouns into the red cards if you want.