Teaching Strategy

My Pile, Your Pile

Word Work
Grade Level


My Pile, Your Pile is an interactive word game that increases students’ Tier Two and Tier Three vocabularies.


Before, during or after reading.


Students need to practice learning and using new words to comprehend central texts. Playing a word game provides repeated, engaging practice and cements word usage in students’ working vocabularies.


  1. Choose your vocabulary words.
  2. Put students into groups of between two and four.
  3. Give each student five index cards and a different color marker. Have students write their initials on one corner of each card.
  4. Have students choose four words from the selected vocabulary words.
  5. Direct students to write each word correctly on a separate index card.
  6. Direct students to find each word in the central text.
  7. Direct students to write a definition in their own words on the other side of the card. Prompt students to define the word by using context clues from the central text.
  8. Have students confirm their definitions with group members or classroom resources (e.g. dictionaries).
  9. Direct students to compose a sentence using the word and write it under the definition.
  10. Direct students to draw a picture on the front of the card to remind them of the meaning of the word.
  11. Pair students with someone who was not in their original groups.
  12. Instruct pairs of students to play My Pile, Your Pile according to the following directions:
    • Student A quizzes student B
    • Student B quizzes student A.
    • If student A can define the word and spell it correctly, the word is placed in the center pile.
    • If student A does not know the word, student B keeps the card.
    • Players trade piles and repeat the process. The goal is for all cards to be in the center pile.

English language learners

Modify this activity by using students’ native languages (if more than one student speaks the same language). The cards also function as flashcards for individual practice. Flashcards are helpful for English language learners because they can be tailored to individual levels of language acquisition. This strategy also lends itself well to a modification in which students list cognates for the identified word from their native language.

Connection to anti-bias education

My Pile, Your Pile contributes to a more inclusive and equitable classroom environment by giving students the opportunity to be successful and encouraging to each other. Students interact in small groups, practice talking with each other, and work and play cooperatively.

Add to an Existing Learning Plan
    Group of adults listening to one person speaking.

    New Virtual Workshops Are Available Now!

    Registrations are now open for our 90-minute virtual open enrollment workshops. Explore the schedule, and register today—the first workshop begins October 16th and space is limited!

    Sign Up!