Definition Smefinition

For language arts, math, s cience, and s o c i a l st udies
This game, modeled after Balderdash, requires little or no knowledge of the relevant terms and
phrases. In fact, the fun of the game is not knowing the definitions.

You will need a basket or bowl and a dictionary.

Set Up
Prepare a list of at least ten to twenty terms ahead of time (only you will see the list). Be sure the
definitions for your terms are in a dictionary or similar reference book.

1. Break the class into teams of three, four, or five. Give one team the dictionary.
2. Write the first term on the board and say it aloud. On your signal, the team with the dictionary
looks up the real definition of the term and writes it down while the other teams work
together to come up with their best guess as to what the word means. They can use knowledge of
prefixes, roots, and suffixes as well as any background knowledge.
a. For example, if a fifth-grade class is analyzing the word autobiography, one student
might pick up on the root auto- and suggest the word had something to do with
performing an action without thought, like automatic. Another student might know that
a biography is the story of someone's life because she sees her dad reading biographies at
home. The group might put together these and other suggestions to write the definition,
"Autobiography: the things in life we all know are boring but still have to do." You
might even ask students to write the word in a sentence. Their definition will probably
not be correct, but the important thing is that students have seen and started thinking
about the word. The team with the dictionary should mark their definition in
some way, such as putting a D on the top right-hand corner of the page before
turning it over to you. The other teams do not need to mark their definitions in any
3. After you have collected all of the definitions, including the real definition, read them aloud.
After everyone has heard and thought about every definition you read, have the teams discuss
which one they think is correct. The team who used the dictionary to write down the correct
definition will sit out this round of play. When the other teams have agreed on an answer, one
member of each team announces which definition they believe is correct.
4. Points are awarded in two ways: First, if a team guesses the correct definition, a point is
awarded to them. Second, a point is awarded to any team who wrote the definition another
team voted for.
a. For example, if Team A wrote the definition that Team B voted for, Team A is awarded
a point. The object of the game, then, is not only to guess the correct definition, but
also to write a realistic definition for the given word, one that will fool other teams
into voting for it.

5. Finally, if any team writes down the real definition, an automatic three points are awarded.
a. For example, assume each team has written their own definition for the word
corruption. You find that you have two slips of paper with the correct definition when
you collect all of the definitions. One slip was written by the team with the dictionary,
but another was written by a team that did not have the dictionary. This is why the
team with the dictionary must mark their definition before giving it to you. If you
have two slips of paper with the correct definition, simply discard the one written by
the team with the dictionary. This way, you can inform the class that one of the teams
has written the correct definition and, because the team with the dictionary sits out
that round of play, the answer will not be given away by being read twice. You award
the team with the correct definition three automatic points only after everyone has
6. As the game continues, each team gets a turn to write down the real definition using the
After the correct definition is revealed and points have been awarded, you might ask each student
to write down the word and its true definition in his or her vocabulary notebook. Through playing
this game then, students will have been introduced to new vocabulary terms because they will
have looked at each term, thought about its meaning, and then written down the correct definition.

Carleton, L. a. (2010). Vocabulary Games for the Classroom. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.