Published 16th July 2018

Vocabulary games

Vocabulary makes the world go round, or so it may seem in the English as a Foreign Language world. Our learners need vocabulary to be able to communicate in English so we need to expose them to loads of vocabulary items. However, that’s not enough. We need to make sure they understand how the words look, sound and are used. Then, we need to make sure they remember all this information. How we do this is by using vocabulary games.

Any teacher worth their salt will have a truckload of vocabulary games up their sleeves. They will have their favourite vocabulary games which they use regularly, game ideas which they haven’t tried yet but are waiting for the right lesson and some quick and easy no-prep vocabulary games for when they have a few extra minutes in the classroom.

Vocabulary games to add to your collection:

Strangers on a train

Each student is given a set of cards, each with a word or phrase on. The students are put in pairs or groups. Each pair or group must have a conversation about any topic they want – as if they are sitting next to each other on a train. During the conversation they must use the words on their cards as naturally as possible. They can use the cards in any order, but their usage must make sense. The conversation ends when a student has managed to use all of their words.

Vocabulary games: Beginnings and endings

Students are put into groups. One student starts by saying a word. The next student must say another word which starts with the last sound of the previous word. For example, if the first student says fish then next student can say shower but not hotel. The game continues until someone cannot think of a word. To make it harder, you can stipulate that the word needs to belong to a certain category, such as adjectives or travel words.

Vocabulary games: Kim’s game

Write down a set of words on flashcards. You will need quite a few – at least ten or twelve. Stick the flashcards to the board. Give the students a few minutes to study the board. Ask the students to look away or close their eyes. Rearrange the words on the board and take one or two away. Students must try identify which word or words are missing. Once this has been done a few times take away all the cards and see how many of the words the students can remember.

Vocabulary games: Twenty questions

A student is given a word. Other students must guess the word by asking the student questions about it. The catch? The only answers the student can give are yes and no. In other words, the students can ask Are you a person? But not Are you a person or an animal? The students have twenty questions to ask to try to identify the word.

The vocabulary games mentioned in this blog are some of our favourite vocabulary games to introduce in the EFL classroom.