Activity 13: Group Vocabulary Review

▶ Duration:  20–25 min
▶ Aim:  Oral fluency; vocabulary review/development
▶ Summary:  Group members take turns to describe vocabulary items.

Go back to Oral English Activites


On one hand this is a speaking activity, and on the other hand it is a vocabulary worksheet. Each group receives a worksheet and an envelope of prompt cards with either pictures or chinese words. Group members take turns to randomly pick out a card and describe the concept to their group. Once the english word has been guessed, it is written on the worksheet, and when the worksheet is completed it will reveal a secret phrase.

The vocabulary set on which the activity is based need not be something that has been explicitly taught to the students in the past, in fact including some words that they are unlikely to know will give the students a sense that they have learnt something new from the activity. Hopefully, at least one person in the group will know the right word, and be able to teach their peers; if not, then the students simply need to consult their dictionaries.

For each vocabulary item, you need a prompt: either a picture, or the word translated into chinese. The worksheet is not too difficult to prepare—see the Resources section for examples.

Make enough copies of the worksheet and the prompt cards so that each group can receive one worksheet and one set of prompts. Hint: put each set of prompt cards in an envelope.

Use a demo to explain the activity. Replicate part of the worksheet on the blackboard—just the first 4 or 5 lines. Take only the corresponding prompt cards, mix them, and put them in an envelope. Then invite a student to take a card and describe the concept to the class, which you write in the appropriate blank once the class has guessed the english word. Repeat if necessary. Hint: exclude the number 1 prompt card from the envelope, because if this happens to be the first card chosen then the students not realise that the worksheet has to be filled according to the number written on the prompt card, not simply from top to bottom.

Tell the students to work in groups or 3 or 4, and take turns to pick a prompt card and describe the concept to their team. Explain that it is not necessary for the person describing the concept to actually know the correct english word. Explain that the letters filled in on the right-hand side of the worksheet will spell a word or phrase related to the topic.

Supply each group with a worksheet and a set of prompt cards.

After the activity, you can either write the answers on the board, read them aloud, or pass a few copies of the answer sheet around the class.

Activity 18: Communicative Crossword is also based on the concept of explaining a word without saying the word itself.


This worksheet contains 19 different sports, with the secret phrase "Aussie Rules Football". The worksheet, answer sheet, and prompt cards (which need to be cut up) are in this document: sports_vocab1.doc (html preview). Note: few of my students knew what cricket was.

If you don't know what cricket is either, here's a modified version of the worksheet with 16 different sports, no cricket, and the secret phrase "American Football": sports_vocab2.doc (html preview).

Depending on the level of your students, you might choose to introduce some vocabulary before the exercise, such as "raquet", "net", "team", "player", etc.

If you create a worksheet based on this idea, please share it with us.
Rating: 4 stars

A game-like activity, which requires some preparation and scizzor-work on the part of the teacher, but should prove fairly easy to manage in the classroom.