Whenever I have to teach vocabulary for parts of the body I end up feeling as though I’m some kind of strange model, or playing a twisted game of Simeon Says, or doing the Hokey Pokey…or some weird combination of all three! Let’s just say it’s always an adventure teaching this very necessary vocabulary. Through the years I’ve tried a lot of different activities, these are some that have become favorites.
Body Part Magnets
This is a simple activity to practice labeling the most basic body parts. I printed the pictures of the students (be aware they print on ledger size, 17″x11″, paper) and laminated them. I then printed the body part labels, laminated them, and attached magnets to the back of each. I placed magnets on the student pictures that corresponded to the body parts. Students then placed the labels on top of the correct body parts. If you don’t want to do magnets, Velcro would work as well.
This activity requires a partner and some thoughtful setup. I recommend you tell students ahead of time they will be laying on the floor and tracing one another so they can choose their clothing appropriately. I also suggest you allow students to choose their own (same gender) partners so they’ll be more comfortable. You will need a large sheet of paper (I use bulletin board paper supplied by the school or large rolls of craft paper) for each student. The paper needs to be at least a little longer than the student is tall. Students take turns laying on the paper while a partner traces a rough outline around their body. After completing the rough outlines, students tidy up the silhouettes and add in details such as eyes, nose, fingernails, ears, clothes, etc. Finally, students label as many body parts as they can (including eyelashes, earlobe, fingernail, etc.). Students tend to get very detailed in their labels and have a lot of fun looking up words such as “pinky finger” and “nostril.” The finished products make for fun classroom displays!
We also do more traditional activities such as sort cards. Students match the picture cards to the name cards for 35 different body parts. Besides the matching activity, we also use these as flashcards, prompt cards for Body Boggle, and to play a Memory-style game. Sometimes we’ll even adapt the math fact practice game Around the World for a fun speed competition. When we were fully online I transformed this into a drag-and-drop activity so my students could still practice their vocabulary.
Another practice activity I was surprised my older students would like is clip cards. Students look at the picture in the center of the card and clip a clothes pin over the correct word. Maybe it’s the fact that middle schoolers enjoy clipping the clothes pins to their fingers, noses, ears, and other body parts, but they always seem to enjoy working with clip cards. These also make a great center activity–place a big basket of clothes pins and sets of the cards in the center and let students clip away. Students can check one another’s efforts or you can do it yourself later.
Board games are always popular with my students, and this one is no exception. In this game, students draw a card before rolling the die. If the card has a picture of a body part on it, the student must name the body part. If the card has the name of a body part on it, the student must point to it on his/her own body. If successful, the student rolls the die and moves his/her piece. This game was yet another one I converted to digital, though it (unlike most of my games) requires students to leave their cameras on so their classmates can check if they are pointing to the correct body part or not.
To go along with these activities I have others such as magnet spelling strips, spinners, worksheets, and more. They are my standard vocabulary practice activities and are more completely described in the post Vocabulary Activities. These activities are bundled together into a discounted single download (also includes the sort cards, clip cards, and board game) and a digital version is also available.
Are there other activities out there? Absolutely! I’ve even tried quite a few of them, but these are the ones I’ve found to be the most successful on at least two levels: students like them and they result in vocabulary acquisition. I’m sure other activities are just as good, but by the time we finish with all of these activities and worksheets my students have a good grasp of body part vocabulary and don’t need much further practice. Does that mean I’ll never become inspired and create something new? Well, let’s just say you don’t know me very well if you think that! 🙂 Happy teaching, everyone!