Word Play – handouts

Word Play (vocabulary revision games)

1          BINGO!*

This game can be played with words, phrases or expressions. To play you need a set of between 15 and 20 lexical items (from a word bag, a word list, a vocabulary list at the end of the lesson or a brainstorming session with the class). These will need to be recorded on the board.  You can provide bingo grids (3 x 3) or students can prepare them themselves.  Students (working in pairs, small groups or alone) choose 9 items and fill in the grid at random.  They then take it in turns to define one of the items. If the item is on their classmates’ grid, they can cross it off.  The student/s defining the item CANNOT cross it off, so encourage them to choose items that they have not written in their grid.  Keep a separate note of each item as it is defined so that you can check against winning claims.  The winner could be the first to get a row of three, or to get all nine squares. In either case they have to shout out “bingo!”.


A version of Grammar Auction, in this game the students are given a set of sentences, some of which contain collocation mistakes (e.g. I did a mistake in my homework).  In pairs or small groups, they read the sentences and decide which are right and which are wrong. They are then told that they are going to bet on the sentences.  They can bet a minimum of ten tokens and a maximum of thirty.  If they win their bet, they double their money. If they lose the bet, they lose their money. Each team is given a set of voting cards, a green “right” card and a red “wrong” card. The teacher, or a volunteer, reads out the sentence, asks each team to place their bet and then to vote by showing either the red or the green card.  The voting should be simultaneous.  The teacher elicits the answer (right or wrong) and a correction if necessary.  (It’s a good idea to keep a visual record of the corrections on the board.)  Each team tots up their winnings or losses (you may want to nominate an assistant to help you keep abreast of this and avoid any cheating!) and you move on to the next sentence. The team with the biggest winnings at the end is the winner.

3          HOT SEATING

This game can be played as a whole class activity or in small groups. The basic idea is that one student is nominated/volunteers to take the “hot seat” and must ask their classmates questions in order to discover a mystery word, phrase or expression.  As a whole class activity the “volunteer” sits in front of the class with their back to the board and the word, phrase or expression is written on the board where the rest of the class can see it. When playing in small groups, the teacher gives the group the word, phrase or expression on a slip of paper, making sure the volunteer can’t see it. This game is equally effective as a warmer or a closer and when used over and over again the students soon become very good at focusing their questions and answers. To add an additional game element, give each group the same set of cards and see which group is quickest at explaining the whole set.


In this variation on word association the students have to associate words to a set of images.  It can be played as a whole class game, with the students divided into three or more teams. Or it can be played in groups of three or four.  Each team/student chooses five words from a word bag or word list. They then look at a set of photos and take it in turn to associate one of the words on their list with one of the photos. They have to justify the association. If they cannot find an association, or the rest of the group reject their justification, they miss a go. The first team/student to find an association for all their words, wins the game.


To play the game you need a list of words, phrases or expressions which can be either photocopied or written on the board. In groups or pairs the students write five (or more if you prefer) sentences including items from the list. At this stage it is important that the teacher monitors accuracy and eliminates any ambiguity. The students then rewrite their sentences leaving gaps instead of the target vocabulary.  The gap fill tests are then displayed around the classroom and each team circulates, completing each test.  (Give each test a letter or name and each item in each test a number to help when it comes to the feedback stage). When all the teams have completed all the tests, the teacher asks each team to give the solutions for their test and the students tot up their correct answers. There are two prizes, one goes to the team with the highest overall score, and the second goes to the team which wrote the most difficult test (ie the one that got the most wrong answers from their classmates)


To play this game you need  a set of approximately 30 lexical items that can easily be categorized into equally sized groups.   Before you start, prepare cards with the names of the categories (three or four categories work best). You may want students to play individually or in teams. (The former is a little more controlled.)  The teacher reads out the words on the list one by one and when the students hear a word that matches their category, they jump up and shout out the name of their category and then repeat the target word.  There are two ways of scoring.  You can hand out tokens (slips of paper) to the students that get the category right and take them away again if they get it wrong. At the end of the game the students simply count up the tokens in their hands and the student with the most tokens wins. Alternatively, at the end of the game, you can ask the students to write the list of words for their category game and the student/team with the longest list wins.

7          SLAP SNAP

The game can be played in pairs or small groups of three or four. To play the game you need a set of 12 or more word cards for each team. These might be cards from your class word bag, or alternatively you may want to focus on a specific lexical set. In this case write the items on the board and ask the students to transfer them to blank cards/slips of paper.  The cards are laid out on the table or the floor in front of the students. Each student takes it in turn to choose an item and give a definition. Their partners listen and when they think they understand which word it is, they slap their hand down on the card and shout “snap!”. The student who shouts “snap” first wins the card.  The game continues until all the words have been defined. The student who holds the most cards, wins the game.


This game is best played with a set of similar phrases e.g. expressions with get. Dictate the expressions to the class in sets of three letters, as if you were reading out a phone number (e.g. G-E-T / A-W-A / Y-W-I /T-H-M / U-R-D etc.).  Read each set of three letters once only. Students write them down. If they think they know what the phrase is, they shout it out.  If they are right, they get ten points and you move on to the next phrase. If they get it wrong, they lose 5 points and you continue with the dictation.  Once you’ve dictated all the phrases play a game that focuses on meaning, such as slap snap or instant gap fills above.


A vocabulary take on the old favourite.  For this game you need a board full of words, phrases, expressions, or a word list.  The game is played in groups of 3 or 4. One student chooses one of the words, expressions or phrases on the board/list but doesn’t tell their partners which. They have to ask yes/no questions to find out which item the student has chosen.  They have a maximum of 20 questions. The game can take as long or as little as you like. It’s a good way of rounding up a vocabulary heavy lesson.


To play this game you need a list of 20 -30 words.  The object of the game is to score points by making grammatically correct  sentences that include words on the list.  A correct sentence including three words scores three points,  a sentence with two words scores two points, a sentence with one word scores one point. An incorrect sentence (ie that contains grammatical or spelling errors, makes no logical sense or is incomplete) scores no points.  Each team takes it in turn to come to the board and write their sentence. The teacher awards the points and if the sentence is not correct offers the other teams the chance to correct the sentence and win the points.  Each time a word is used correctly, it is struck off the list. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

*    Photocopiable teaching resources for these games can be found on www.macmillanenglish.com/straightforward/ebag.htm

Email address : cerijones@ono.com

Twitter ID: @cerirhiannon


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