Word Cloud

This is a great way to preface a text (especially a longer one), finds the main vocabulary needed to understand the text, and presents it in a cool way. Best for B1-C2 levels.

  1. Find the text in digital format, for example, an article or wikipedia entry. Copy the text into a word cloud generator (there are a ton, just check the ones that are compatible with your computer). Press enter and voila, you have a word cloud. (you can make adjustments to the settings).
  2. Show the word cloud to the learners. Explain these are the most frequent words from a text (the larger, the more frequent). Ask them if there are any unknown words, pre-teach them or ask the others to explain if they know.
  3. Then ask the Ls to predict what the text is about. I usually write a few of the guesses on the board.
  4. Then read the text (using whatever strategies you normally use for texts). Check if their predictions where correct.
  5. Then have them write or give an oral summary of the text using the words in the word cloud. This is where the unknown words will move from passive understanding to active use.

This is basically a great confidence booster. When the Ls get a long text with lots of new words, it can be demotivating. But when you explain that they just need the main words, that helps. Usually, however, they don’t KNOW what the “main” words are. A word cloud helps out in that area as it pulls the words with the highest frequency (usually omitting words like a, the, it etc which can be changed in the settings).

1-1: This works perfectly for 1-1 as described above.

Vocabulary Quiz from the Learners

This is a not about flipped classrooms. I use this exercise with any level from B1-C2. I usually use it with a text, for example an article.

  1. After doing an interactive lead-in to the topic and prediction questions based on the headline, distribute the text/article.
  2. As homework have the learners read the text (if it is long, break it into sections and one group reads one section).
  3. Then they should create a vocabulary quiz (including collocations, phrasal verbs, idioms etc.). The quiz can take various forms and they are allowed to choose:
    1. match the definition to the word (they get the definitions from a dictionary)
    2. find the word in the text with this definition… (from a dictionary)
    3. gap fill (they type a sentence from the text and leave one word/phrase out)
    4. label the diagram with words from the text (they bring a diagram)
    5. broken collocations (match the first part of the collocation to the second part)
    6. etc.
  4. I usually limit it to 5 or 10 words. The learners are already familiar with these exercises from me, books, workbooks and worksheets from the training, so remind them to look at those for inspiration.
  5. They bring enough copies for everyone in class.
  6. You can do the quizzes as a straight up “test” or I like to make a game out of it. Give them a few minutes alone (or in pairs if weaker) if needed or do it spontaneously for stronger learners. Then “Who has number 4 on Maria’s quiz?” and give a point to the first team to correctly answer it.

It’s great to see them create these quizzes. Once they are strong on the vocabulary, of course we return to the actual text and then do various discussion/comprehension activities.

Vocabulary Tic Tac Toe (noughts and crosses)

My learners love this review of vocabulary. It can be used at all levels from A1-C2.

  1. Ask the learners to look at their notes for the last few lessons and write down 8 words (you can make this more or fewer) on a slips of paper you distribute.
  2. Collect the slips of paper and lay 9 of them in front of you on the table (make sure there are no doubles). This is for your reference so you remember which words are in which box. Alternatively, just draw a board on a piece of paper for yourself with the words. Draw a large tic tac toe game board # on the whiteboard.
  3. Divide the class into two teams and you are going to play tic tac toe (review the rules of normal tic tac toe if necessary: i.e. that you need three X or O (your teams mark) in a row to win.).
  4. Explain that there is a word in each box and before their team can make a mark, they must first call the box they want, listen to the description/translation of the word from you and then say the correct word in English. Then they can make their mark in the box. If they do not get the word (I set my phone timer for 30 seconds), the box remains unopened.
  5. Then the next team chooses any box and repeat until one team wins.

NB: The first two times a box is attempted I usually give the same description. The third time, I add a little and the fourth time a little more (like the translation, a sample sentence, antonym and finally the first letter, then the second letter).

Because the learners choose the words, it is very relevant to them and they enjoy it. It is NOT as fast as you might think. I usually do 3 rounds which might take 20 minutes total.

I also review phrases like: top left, top center, top right, bottom left etc.

1-1: This game can not be adapted for 1-1. A minimum of 2 participants is needed to play in addition to the teacher who moderates.

A-Z with Photos

This is great for all levels.

  1. Put the learners in pairs. Ask them to label a piece of paper with A, B, C…Z.
  2. Explain that you will show them all a photo (you might make copies for each pair or send/give them the url). They need to find a word in the photo for each letter of the alphabet (so choose a photo with a lot happening). They can use verbs, nouns or even prepositions usually.
  3. Show them the photo. Circle and help where necessary. I allow dictionaries/online dictionaries.
  4. The winner is the first group finished or when you call time, the group with the most words. You could also give points for unique words that other groups didn’t have in their list? Be creative. 🙂

1-1: This can be used in 1-1 lessons, but the trainer should allow the learner to take the lead.

Word Tag

Word tag

This simple activity is good as a very fast warm-up.

  1. explain you are going to do some vocabulary brainstorming. You are going to start the chain by saying a word, for example “cat”.
  2. The next person in the circle must use the last letter of your word to create a new word such as “today”.
  3. The game continues in this way for a round or two.

Variation 1

Instead of going in a circle, use a ball/bean bag/crumpled piece of paper that they throw to the next person.

Variation 2

Set a time limit of 15 seconds (or more) to give an answer. If someone is stumped, they are “out”. Start again and play until there is one winner. You could also stipulate that words may not be repeated.

Variation 3

For more advanced groups you could stipulate the topic, for example, “finance”. A possible chain might be “cash-hedge fund-dividend”. Because this is much more challenging, you might allow them a longer time period, to work in pairs and or use the internet on their smart phones for help.

1-1: This works for 1-1 lessons.




Variation 1: Whole Group

  1. Distribute slips of paper to the learners and ask them to write one verb on each slip. I usually tell them to look through their notes/books/moodle glossary for the verbs. It is OK if they write a verb someone else has written.
  2. Put the slips in the middle of the table or in a bag.
  3. One person at a time takes a slip, (set your phone timer to 30 seconds) and acts out the slip. Whoever guesses the verb, wins the slip. The winner has the most slips.

Variation 2: Teams

  1. Steps one and two as above.
  2. The first team selects ONE person to choose a slip and act it out. ONLY their teammates may guess. If time runs out and nobody from the team has guessed, allow other teams one guess.

Variation 3: 1-1 training

  1. Steps one and two as above.
  2. Take turns guessing the words. You can either do one word per play with a timer OR allow multiple words to be guessed in a set time (as many as you can guess in say, 90 seconds).

Variation 4: Higher levels

To make it more challenging, the learners should not just write the verb, but a phrase. So if the new verb was “bury” it could become “bury a bone/letter/body”.

Note: I make the learners formulate a complete question as in “Are you washing a car?”

Brainstorm Lists

Brainstorm Lists

This is my all-time favorite for brainstorming vocabulary and introducing new vocabulary.

  1. Explain that you are going to brainstorm vocabulary by saying “I am going to say a topic and you have 2 minutes to write down all the words you can think of connected to the topic. If I say “animals” you can write “dog, cat, doghouse, cat food, bear….”. Also explain they will get 2 points for each English word they write and 1 point for each word in their first language. This is important so we know where the “holes” in their vocabulary are.
  2. Start your timer, give the topic and begin (I also make a list, including more obscure words).
  3. After the time is up, explain that you are going to now check the words and the person with the most points for UNIQUE answers wins. In other words, the first person’s first word is “dog” and if someone else has this word, the word is out and can not be used by anyone. Then go to the next person and they say the first word on their list and the groups says whether or not they also have the word on their own lists.
  4. This continues until all the words on all the lists have been read (it goes faster as their lists get smaller).
  5. When someone uses a word the others don’t know, have that person explain it and put it on the board. If someone uses a German word, give the English (or ask the group first if they know the English) and put it on the board.
  6. Everyone counts up their points and you have your vocabulary champion.