Some old-time-classic vocabulary games, I love.
They say that, to stimulate long-term memory ideally, words would be reviewed 5-10 minutes after class, 24 hours later, one week later, one month later, and finally six months later.
Unless these new language items are noticed and understood on multiple occasions, they will likely fade from memory and be forgotten.
Over the past decade, I’ve put together a variety of sure-fire and engaging vocabulary recycling activities drawn from a number of sources: resource books, teachers, trainers, and some of which are of my own invention. You could also give them a try….
Divide the class into teams A and B. One member from each team plays at a time. The teacher scribbles a word on the board and gives the team one minute to get their teammate to say the item. If the hot-seated player manages to say the word, the teacher quickly writes another item on the board and so on until the minute is up. The team scores a point for every item they manage to say within one minute.
Put the students into pairs or small groups. Give them a time limit (e.g. 3 minutes) and ask them to write down as many words, phrases, and/or expressions as they can from the last lesson on topic X. The pair or group that can remember the most items wins.
Variation a: To add a spelling accuracy component, teams can also earn an extra point for each correctly spelt item.
Variation b: I love it when I use music to help them brainstorm vocabulary in this game! An example is when we revise the Season’s vocabulary and I eg have them listen to Vivaldi ” Four Seasons” while writing….
Divide the class into Teams A and B. Team A sits in a group on one side of the classroom, Team B sits on the other side. One member from each team goes to the board. The teacher flashes them a word, phrase, or expression written on a piece of paper. The students have one minute to get their respective team to say the item only by drawing pictorial clues on the board. Written words, verbal clues, or gestures are forbidden. The first team to say the word scores a point.
Variation: With younger students, I draw the word in three steps: First, I draw 2-3 lines. If they get the word right, they get 3 points for their team. secondly, I draw half of the word pictorial clues. If they now get it right, they get 2 points . Finally, I draw all the pictorial clues and in case they manage to get the word right, I award them 1 point or no points at all, if they aren’t able to figure it out!
I love playing Bingo revision games with kids! There are many variations..this one, is one of my favourite ones.
The teacher writes up 20 words, phrases and/or expressions on the board. Each student chooses any 9 of the items from the board and writes them down. The teacher then selects one of the items at random (bits of paper from a hat, for example) and offers a brief definition or synonym of the item but does not say the word itself. If a student thinks they have the word the teacher described, they tick it. When a student ticks all of their words, they shout BINGO!! The first student to shout BINGO wins the round. Additional rounds can be played with different sets of words.
Write up eight words with their letters shuffled (e.g. eicscen for science) on the board. When the teacher says ‘go’, the students, individually or in pairs, endeavor to untangle the words as quickly as they can. The first student or pair, to do so wins. The teacher can then quickly run through each of the scrambled letter groups on the board, eliciting information about each word or concept. Tip: Don’t make them too difficult.
Categories ( Aka The alphabet game)
Divide the class into 3 or 4 teams and assign a secretary for each group. On one side of the board, write down six categories related to the current topic or syllabus of your course (e.g. countries, sports, jobs, movies, furniture, verbs, things that are round). To start the game, the teacher randomly selects a letter of the alphabet and scribbles it onto the board. Each team must then work together to quickly find a word for each of the six categories that starts with the chosen letter. The first team to complete all six categories shouts “stop!” The class then stops writing, and a member of the team goes to the board to fill in the categories. The teacher then checks each word with the class and also elicits what other teams had for each category. If the quickest team has filled in each category correctly, they earn one point for their team. The teacher then chooses a different letter and another round is played. The first team to score X number of points wins.
Vocabulary fun activities
The Dolls’ House.
To help them revise the house rooms and furniture as well as the prepositions of place, I have them decide how to decorate a dolls’ house . They are asked to place the pieces of furniture anywhere in the house they wish, and tell the class about each change they make to the previous furniture arrangements. eg ” The sofa is in the kitchen now, next to the fridge”
Instead of asking them to write a boring dictation on the adjectives that describe feelings, I ask them to find photos that show different feelings and moods and bring them to class.They use them to play several guessing games with their classmates, in teams!
When I want them to revise all the Seasons Vocabulary, I have them write their own poems using it, and recite them in class where we hold a poetry competition and finally vote for our favourite poems! I often have them work in pairs: one of them is the poet while the other one is the artist who reads the poetry and creates his/her work of art, being inspired by it! The artist, has to talk to the class about his picture, using as much of the target vocabulary as possible.
My special talents
When I want them to revise the sports and free time activities, instead of giving them a test, I have them stand up and show the class what they are good at, or what their special talent is. They are free to even teach the class about their special abilities . Such a good activity to enhance self-esteem , too!
The Apple tree
This is basically a scoring game, and can be used in various different ways.I mainly play it to test new words and spelling !
1. Put the kids in groups (6 is usually good as there are usually 6 rows of desks), but keep them seated at their desks.
2. Draw pictures of trees on the board, one tree for each group. Each tree has 9 “rungs” (add more or less depending on the amount of time you wish to play), and some apples at the top. (see the picture above) This takes about 1 minute if you’re quick!
5. You stop the music.
6. You then ask the person holding the ball a question (“What’s this? How are you? What’s your name? etc.) My variation is spelling new words!
7. If the student gets it right then their team’s animal climbs one rung up the tree!
8. Repeat from step 4 until one team reaches the top – and the apples!
This is good for a review session, or even for practicing new vocab. 9 rungs lasts about 20 minutes. After the first few tries I then ask questions that are worth 2 “rungs”, or even ask the kids if they want an easy question for 1 point or a tricky one for 2 points!!
The weather forecast
Instead of asking the kids to write boring weather reports, I ask them to predict about next week’s weather and report to the class on….our class TV! They talk about their predictions using their weather map and we can even adjust the…volume holding imaginary remote controls !It’s loads of fun!
My favourite sports board game
To revise the sports vocabulary, I usually have them play a vocabulary board game, in pairs! They have to say the name of the sport in the picture they land on , to be able to move on to the next level. I ask older students to use the sport word in a sentence instead.
Dancers and poets
When I want my students to revise new words, especially adjectives, I usually ask them to work in pairs. One of them is the poet, the other one is the dancer. The poet, writes a poem using as much of the target vocabulary as possible. The dancer is dancing while the poet is reciting his poem …according to the verse content, trying to express his/her feelings listening to it!It can become, hilarious! Students, love both to watch and participate in these …performances in which, improvisation rules !!
My friend is….
I love working with adjectives! To revise them, one of the things I do is to ask my students to write their names on a sheet of paper, then put all those sheets up on the classroom walls and finally ask the students to walk around the classroom and write adjectives next to each name which they think characterize their friends! I always ask them to focus on the positive characteristics of their classmates! It’s a nice way to boost self-esteem too….We later, collect the sheets of paper and comment on them. Fun!
School objects hidden
Instead of giving my 3rd graders boring dictation on school objects, I prefer playing fun vocabulary games with them. One old-time-classic game is the following : I hide different school objects under a piece of cloth and have them touch the object without looking to guess what they are ! They work in teams and for each correct guess they make , they get one point for their team!
Look, taste, smell….
To practice grammar, I also play games..
One example is the way I ask them to practice and revise the Sense Verbs . I ask a student to…take off his/her shoe and ask another student to….. smell it and tell us how it…smells! ! It’s hilarious…! Then I ask a student to keep his/her mouth wide open and ask the student sitting next to him/her to say how it looks!! I might also ask them to smell his/her breath and comment on it!! Sounds disgusting , ha? But, the children love it! I might also ask a male student to kiss a girl’s hand a tell us the taste or smell of it…! Touch her hair and produce sentences like: ” It feels soft”!The list of the fun things I ask them to do is endless! They just don’t want us to stop! The more I ask them to do, the more they practice using the Sense Verbs !
Another example is, the activity we do to practice the Order of Adjectives ,when the students become …models !!
They take turns and walk like fashion models on the catwalk!
The other students use opinion, colour, material etc adjectives, to describe what the model is wearing and make comments on his/her clothes!
Example: She’s wearing a cute, pink, woolen sweater! It suits her!
He is wearing smart, dark blue,denim jeans! They match his t-shirt!
The cute Monsters Posters
To have my students practice the words that describe People and Physical Characteristics I ask them to use them to describe an imaginary creature on a poster!
They have to think about the following before they create their monster:
- What colour is he?
- What colour arms and legs does he have?
- What does he look like? (Tell us about his eyes, his ears and his mouth.)
- What can he do?
Then, they write up a profile for their monster including his/her appearance, personality, traits, skills/powers, monster friends, enemies, hobbies and where it lives – or if they are a bad guy monster you can replace the hobbies bit with ‘Strategy’ and put ‘Weakness’ at the bottom and write down what their weaknesses are.
Finally, I ask them to draw their monster!
The only limit is their imagination….
Drama activities to have them speak
I rarely have my students read the text or dialogues from our book aloud…I prefer to have them act the story out in groups- from a very early age.
Sketses promote active learning, enriching and reinforcing their more traditional school experiences. In addition most children are excited by the prospect of performing in front of others as a chance to be the center of attention. So, when it comes to teaching English as a second language, no matter the age of the student, drama and children are a winning combination.
Children love being part of something. Preparing an ESL skit together is a bonding experience for the group. All children are involved, from the shyest to the most outspoken and all contribute to the final outcome. Children want to belong and being part of a play allows that to happen.
You don’t have time NOT to use ESL plays. Drama is not an addition to my 26 units, but a method of teaching them more effectively. It does not matter if you can’t act – the children will be doing the acting and they are the experts!
The conversational use of language in an ESL play script promotes fluency. While learning a play, children listen to and repeat their lines over a period of time. By repeating the words and phrases they become familiar with them and are able to say them with increasing fluency.
The teacher’s own enthusiasm also goes a long way towards motivating a child. Anyone who has taught a classroom of children knows how quickly they pick up and reflect your moods. If you think your English lesson is boring, so will they!
The plays DO GET THEM TO SPEAK. And this is a very rewarding experience for us, teachers, to hear them SPEAK, not just use the target vocabulary.
Teaching and revising vocabulary has become easier for me through all these fun activities ,as for the children every single new word they are learning is now more meaningful as it is connected with their real life experiences in class .