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Does he/she agree with you?

  2. Think of three people you admire very much. They can be politicians, musicians, sports personalities etc. or people you know personally. Choose the person you admire most and think of three adjectives to describe this person. Then choose the second and third person you admire and think of three more adjectives for each person to explain why.


Another useful selecting task that can be applied to any vocabulary lesson is:

  • Choose five (or ten or twenty) words from this lesson to learn. Think of how you will demonstrate – in the next class – that you have learned them.



A MATCHING task involves first recognizing words and then pairing them with – for example – a visual representation, a translation, a synonym, an antonym, s definition, or a collocate.


  WORD PAIR RACE In five minutes, write as many correct pairs of verb + noun phrases as possible.   VERBS
book crash do wear
fail win earn go
look like inherit shoot put on


into a tree a salary weight sightseeing
a seat-belt an exam research a photo
a match a fortune your father a holiday




Pelmanism is a memory game which involves nothing but matching. Word pairs are printed on individual cards which are placed face down in a random distribution. Players take turns to pick up a card and then search for its partner. If they correctly locate the partner, they keep the pair, and have another turn. If not, they lay the cards face down where they found them, and the next players has a turn. The player with the most pairs at the end of the game is the winner. Typical pairs might be:

  • antonyms (tall – short, thick – thin, dark – light, etc)
  • British and American equivalents (bill – check, pharmacy – drugstore, lift – elevator)
  • collocations (wide + awake, stark + naked, fast + asleep)

SORTING activities require learners to sort words into different categories. The categories can either be given, or guessed. Here are few task examples:

  • Put these adjectives into two groups – positive and negative.
  • Put these words into four groups of three words each. Then, think of a title for each group.
  • Imagine you have just moved into a completely empty flat. You can afford to buy one piece of furniture a week. Put the following items in the order in which you would buy them: fridge, bed, desk, dining table, sofa, etc. Now, compare your list with another student and explain your order. If you were sharing the flat together, would you agree? If not make a new list that you both agree about.
  • Rank the following types of skill/knowledge for their usefulness in everyday life: tooth care, knitting, arithmetic, league football, filling in tax forms, ancient Greek, darning, surgery, road safety, etc. Compare your rankings with your partner. Discuss your choices.
  • Put the following words in the order in which they typically happen in your country: graduate, get married, get divorced, get born, get engaged, die, leave home, have children, re-marry, start school




While the title of this chapter is 'How to put words to work', it would be wrong to suggest that vocabulary learning has to be all work and no play. Language play, including word games, has a long history. Children of all cultures seem to enjoy games of the 'I spy ..." or 'Hangman' type, and there is a long tradition of adult word games, a number of which have been adapted for television. Most first-language word games transfer comfortably to the second-language classroom. The most useful will be those that are consistent with the principles of learning outlined on pages 24 and 25. For example, the more often a word is successfully retrieved from memory, the easier it becomes to recall it. Therefore, useful games are those that encourage learners to recall words and, preferably, at speed. Or, consistent with the principle that learners need to make multiple decisions about words, a useful game would be one like a 'dictionary race', where students first sort words into alphabetical order, then into parts of speech, and then into lexical sets - the first group to complete all three tasks correctly being the winner.

However, since many word games deal solely with isolated - rather than contextualised - words, and often require only shallow processing on the part of the learner, they should be used judiciously. The time spent on a single de-contextualised word in a game of 'Hangman', for example, has to be weighed up against the more productive, contextualised and cognitively deep activities outlined earlier in this chapter. Too often games are used to plug holes in lessons which could more usefully be filled with language-rich talk. Nevertheless, the fun factor may help make words more memorable, and, like it or not, a competitive element often serves to animate even the most lethargic students.

So, here are some word games to try:

Word clap:Students stand or sit in a circle, and, following the teacher's lead, maintain a four-beat rhythm, clapping their hands on their thighs three times (one-two-three ...) and then both hands together (four!). The game should start slowly, but the pace of the clapping can gradually increase. The idea is to take turns, clockwise, to shout out a different word from a pre-selected lexical set (for example, fruit and vegetables) on every fourth beat. Players who either repeat a word already used, or break the rhythm - or say nothing - are 'out' and the game resumes without them, until only one player is left. The teacher can change the lexical set by shouting out the name of a new set at strategic points: Furniture! Nationalities! Jobs! etc.

Categories: Learners work in pairs or small groups. On a piece of paper, they draw up a number of columns, according to a model on the board, each column labelled with the name of a lexical set: e.g. fruit, transport, clothes, animals, sports. The teacher calls out a letter of the alphabet (e.g. B!), and to a time limit (e.g. three minutes), students write down as many words as they can beginning with that letter in the separate columns (banana, berry; bus; bikini, blouse; bear, bat; baseball, basketball...). The group with the most (correct) words wins.

Noughts and crosses: Draw two noughts and crosses grids on the board:


        food and drink clothes the home
        jobs colours the weather
        sports transport parts of the body

One is blank. In the other each square is labelled with a category, or with nine different phrasal verb particles (up, on, off, in, back, etc), or nine different affixes (un-, non-, -less, -tion, etc). Prepare a number of questions relating to each category. For example (if the class is monolingual): How do you say 'tamburo’ in English? Or, What is the opposite of ‘shy’? Divide the class into two teams: noughts and crosses. The object is to take turns choosing a category and answering a question in this category correctly so as to earn the right to place their team's symbol in the corresponding position in the blank grid. The winning team is the first to create a line of three (noughts or crosses), either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.

Coffeepot:This is a guessing game. One learner answers yes/no questions from the rest of the class (or group) about a verb that she has thought of, or that the teacher has whispered to her. In the questions the word coffeepot is used in place of the mystery verb. So, for example, students might ask Do you coffeepot indoors or outdoors? Is coffee potting easy or difficult? Can you coffeepot with your bands? etc. If the verb that the student has selected is yawn the answers would be: Both indoors and outdoors; It's easy; No, you can't, but you might use your hands... To make the game easier a list of, say, twenty verbs can be put on the board and the person who is 'it' chooses one of them. This can also be played in pairs.

Back to board:This is another guessing game, but this time the student who is 'it' has to guess a word by asking the rest of the class questions. The student sits facing the class, back to the board; the teacher writes a recently studied word or phrase or idiom on the board, out of sight of the student. The student asks different students yes/no or either/or questions in order to guess the word. For example: Helga, is it a verb or a noun? (A verb.) Dittmar, is it an action? (No.) Karl-Heinz, is it something you do with your mind? (Yes.) ... etc. To make the game easier, the words chosen can be limited in some way — e.g. all phrasal verbs; all character adjectives, and so on.


Pictionary: Based on the commercialised game of the same name, this involves students guessing words or phrases from drawings. They work in teams, each member of the team taking turns to be the 'artist'. If there are three teams, for example, the three 'artists' go to the front of the class where the teacher shows them a word (or phrase) on a card. At a cue, they quickly return to their group and try to get their group to correctly guess the word by drawing it with pen and paper, The first team to guess correctly earns a point, and three new 'artists' have a turn with another word. This is good for reviewing idiomatic expressions, such as green with envy, down in the dumps, under the weather, in the dark, over the moon. At the end of the game, groups can use the pictures as memory prompts in order to recall and write down the expressions that came up in the game, and then to put them into a sentence to show what they mean.


Word snap: Using word cards — e.g. from the class word bag or word box (see page 51) - students work in small groups, with the aim of collecting as many word 'pairs' as possible. One player 'deals' two word cards, face up, so that even-one can read them. The first player to think of a way the words are connected gets to keep the pair, and two more words are laid down. A connection could be: same part of speech; synonyms or antonyms; same lexical set; or, simply, a meaningful sentence can be made using both words. If no connection can be made, the two cards are shuffled back into the pack. The teacher will need to be available to decide in the case of connections being 'challenged'.


Word race: The class is divided into teams and each team is given a board marker pen (or piece of chalk). The board is divided into as many sections as there are teams. The teacher (or a specially appointed student) says a word in the students' language, and the first team to get the correct English translation on to the board earns a point. The game continues for as many words as it is felt necessary to review. The game is suitable for a monolingual class, but a variation of it, which would be suitable for multilingual classes, would be to read out definitions of words, or give synonyms or show pictures, rather than give translations.


Spelling race: The board is divided in two halves, and a representative from each of two teams stands at the board with a board marker pen or chalk. The teacher shows the rest of the class a word on a card. The teams must simultaneously spell (not say) the word to their representative, who cannot see the word. The first team to get the word on to the board with its correct spelling earns a point. The game continues with different students taking turns to be the team representative. This game is more difficult than it sounds, especially if words are chosen that include letters which are frequently confused — such as i and e, v and b, j and g. Lots of variations of this game are possible. The word could be displayed as a picture, so that the teams have to decide what the word is before spelling it.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1138

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