60 seconds: a simple vocabulary review game

So, at our school, it’s that ‘nearly time for the final test’ kind of time, but as any self-respecting teacher will tell you, review (especially of the spaced variety) is an important part of language learning. So hopefully this activity will be useful to you, at whatever point in your courses you may be! The amount of preparation required for this game ranges from minimal to none…

Goal: 

Encourage active recall of previously studied vocabulary; push learners to think about the co-text of vocabulary not just the basic meaning.

Level: 

Pre-intermediate upwards. For lower levels, give them more time to come up with examples, and perhaps provide a sample example on the card to get them going. It kind of grades itself by the vocabulary used. Each level will be capable of putting different words into example sentences, each level’s sentences will vary in complexity.

Materials: 

Small pieces of paper, each with a piece of target vocabulary on one side. (You can prepare these yourself [minimal] or get your learners to do it in groups, which case you only need to provide paper! [none] )

Procedure:

  • Put learners into groups of four. Within the four, each learner has a partner and two opponents.
  • Give each group a set of cards (or if your students made the cards, get each group to swap their pack of cards with another group)
  • Each student takes it in turn to pick a card and think of example sentences into which that word could fit. They tell their group as many sentences as they can in sixty seconds, substituting ‘banana’ or similar for the target word.
  • If their partner guesses the word first, they as a pair get a point. If one of the other pair guess the word first, they as a pair get the point.
  • The game continues until you want to stop it or until all cards are finished.
  • If you use a vocabulary box/bag, you could get them to put the words that weren’t guessed into it, for future review. You could also play this game using vocabulary from the box/bag.

Benefits:

Learners, whether providing examples or guessing the target word, have to think about various aspects of the word in question, not only the meaning. I.e. They need to think about the word grammar, about collocates, about register etc. I think this makes it more useful than simply describing/defining the word.

Variations:

If the focus is something like word pairs (which I have needed to review with my Level 9/Upper Intermediate learners), you could provide only half of the word pair on the pieces of paper, so that the learner who is providing the example sentences has to recall what the full word pair is, as well as how to use it.

Enjoy!

60 seconds...starting now! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

60 seconds…starting now!              Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

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2 thoughts on “60 seconds: a simple vocabulary review game

  1. Hi Lizzie, this is a great vocab review game for both teens and adults and at all levels with simple variations to the rules. The competitive element never fails to get students of all ages engaged. I used to play ‘back to the board’ where one student from each group had to define the word on the board for their teammates. Fastest group got the points. I used vocab from the week to review on a Friday to wind down and the students loved it. I love this activity where they have to substitute a word and create a FULL sentence using it in context….and little/no prep time involved. I’m going to post this idea up in the teachers room now. 🙂

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