Using games and fun activities to recycle vocabulary

For me, word and language games are a great and highly enjoyable way to recycle and repeat language.  Supporting the learner’s language retention and acquisition, they play a significant & important role in my English language training.


My intention is to write a series of posts and to share and outline some of the fun activities I use in my classroom.

This post has also been written to support & compliment my colleague’s (Charles Rei) highly interesting and insightful blog post relating to learner self-study which is titled “Busy Lives and Homework;  Getting more than 90 min a week”

I would like to make a start by bringing to your attention some of the factors & vital ingredients that I believe contribute to the success of activities like word & vocab games;

•             Performance measuring & scoring system.

•             Learner involvement from the onset.

•             Good rapport with learners.

•             Recognition via short & long term competitions & rewards

•             Team / group games (no individual games).

•             A routine ( E.g  30 mins at start of each lesson).

•             A good and enthusiatic game show host.

For most of my language games, I mainly use simple self-made vocabulary cards.  These cards can contain newly introduced or useful vocabulary or vocabulary that has emerged during the lessons / program.  The vocabulary could be anything (E.g.  a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, collocation, fixed or semi fixed phrase, adverbial etc etc)

I like to use game money (E.g. from Monoply) whenever possible.  I believe this adds extra spice, value and also excitement to the activity.  Additionally, it gives me a method of recording and measuring success (keeping score).

Whenever feasible, I always form teams and play team games.  In addition to the interaction & team building that often takes place,  team activities may provide the learners with more of an incentive to learn the new vocabulary at home in order to avoid letting their team member/s down, losing face, or maybe even winning the booby prize.

The vocabulary recycling games which I use are often part of a bigger and on-going competition.  For each activity there is some kind of scoring / reward system.   At the end of each activity or lesson all the scores are recorded and added to a league table.  I believe this competitive element adds energy, anticipation & excitement to the activities and also provides the learners with a possible reward and some valuable peer and trainer recognition.

Game 1

Form your teams (for a class of 8 learners, I would use 4 teams of 2.  For 9 learners 3 x 3.  No more than 4 teams)

This game only uses word class vocabulary cards (nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, etc)

Select a team member from each team and sit them around the same table.

Lay a set number of random vocabulary cards face up on a the table containing  (for 4 teams I use 11 cards, 3 teams 9 cards, 2 teams 7 cards)

For each question there is a monetary reward for a correct answer.  For a wrong answer the learners lose money.  (the amount is your choice).

Part 1.  This is based on speed.  Learners must grab the correct card/s for the questions I ask within a set time limit.   Once a learner touches a card they must take the card.

I generally ask 10 questions for each round.  Questions could include;

  1. Give me all the verbs
  2. Give me all the adjectives
  3. Give me all the uncountable nouns
  4. Give the word that means…….
  5. Give me the words that collocate with…….
  6. Give me the word that is a synonym of…..
  7. Give me the word that is the antonym of…..
  8. Give the learners a sentence with a gap-fill   (I couldn’t go to the meeting today as I had to ……….the English training (attend)
  9. Give me the words with a positive connotation.
  10. Give me the words with a formal register.

Part 2.  For this part, I simply choose a word from the cards on table and ask / say…

  1. Give me a personal / relevant / crazy sentence using the word….. (for this, the better or crazier the sentence, the more the reward)
  2. Give me some words that collocate with….
  3. Give me the other derived forms for the word…..
  4. Spell the word……..

After this round the learners return to their team and different members from each team come to the desk.  The process is then repeated as many times as you desire.

So to end this post, I invite you use this activity, to pull it apart and take from it whatever you need.  If you decide to use it, I truly hope you find this activity useful and enjoyable and I would be very happy to hear from you with feedback on how it went.  If you are interested in using fun activities in your classroom then keep an eye on my blog as many more posts will follow based on this theme.

Until the next time……


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