Posts Tagged ‘word games’

One of the things we do for professional development in the school where I work are so-called ‘experimentation cycles’, where the team chooses a topic, we pool resources (books, resource packs and blog posts with all sorts of activities on the topic), after which everyone who is interested in the topic picks a few activities and tries them out in class. Finally, we organize a workshop to share the activities we liked.

This post is a summary of one of these workshops, which was focused on Vocabulary revision activities. As I mentioned above, the activities mostly came from books and the Internet, and I’m sure you’ll see here quite a few ideas that you’ve tried too – so if you have a variation that you love, could you share it?

‘Vocabulary revision’ is a very broad term and activities could be very different in terms of what the learners need to do with the words:

  • am I given something or do I need to retrieve something from memory?
  • am I given / need to retrieve the meaning or the word itself?
  • how many times?

Based on these questions, the activities here can be roughly categorized (with some overlap) into four groups (ordered according to how cognitively demanding they are):

  1. recalling the meaning of an item
  2. recalling the item (to be more exact, these are mostly pairwork activities in which one person recalls the meaning of the item and explains the item and/or uses it in an isolated sentence and the second person recalls the item) 
  3. recalling and using multi-word items
  4. using lexis in extended speech

Recalling the meaning of an item


Elena Wilkinson shared an activity in which the learners review lexical items learned previously and sort them into three categories: I know, I’m not sure that I know, I have no idea. They then discuss the words in pairs, with people who know words explaining them to those who are not sure / have no idea. The pairs then get combined into groups of four and so on. A variation is to do this activity with the lexical items on slips of paper.


Source: Elena Wilkinson

Vocabulary auction

In this activity the learners review a list of words and expressions and discuss what they mean (a variation: they come up with a definition and an example sentence). Depending on how certain they are, they place a bet on each definition – the bets should add up to $1200.

Once that’s done, the whole class goes through the list word by word. For each word, the team that placed the highest bet explains the word. If the definition is correct, they gain their bet. If it’s wrong, they lose their bet and the chance to define the word is given to a team with the second highest bet. However, if this second team gets the definition correct, it gains the amount the first team bet (e.g. if Team A bet $150 on a word and got the meaning incorrect, Team B, which bet $100 and explained the meaning correctly, will get $150, not $100).


Source: Olga Akimkina

I think this game could work especially well with easily confused words, false friends and lexical mistakes commonly made by the learners in the group.

Recalling the item

Memo (tried out by Olga Akimkina)

In this simple activity the learners look at a list of words/expressions on the board for 30 seconds. Then the list gets erased and the learners try to recall as many expressions as they can (for one minute). They check in pairs – the pair that has recalled the most words is the winner.

Tip. Explain to the learners that they’ll need to recall the words before you display them.

Vocabulary die (tried out by Olga Akimkina and Irina Dubovitskaya)


For this activity you need a set of vocabulary to revise for each pair/small group of learners and a die with tasks (you can create your own dice using this free dice maker). Alternatively, use standard dice and write the tasks on the board (1 = give definition; 2 = draw it, etc).

Tip. Both teachers who tried out this activity found that it worked quite well with ‘concrete’ verbs (see sample images produced by the learners below), but didn’t really work with more abstract concepts like ‘stagnation’.


Source: Olga Akimkina


Polina Safronova shared a nice crossword maker that automatically creates half-crosswords for pairwork guessing games. In this type of crossword student A’s version contains only the horizontal words, while student B’s version contains only the vertical words. The students need to complete their crosswords by listening to their partner’s explanations.

The tool requires registration. Once you’ve registered, the process of creating a crossword is very simple: choose Pairwork crossword and tick I want to make my own:


Type your words (for some reason the words without clues didn’t show up in the crossword, so I simply typed dots for clues) and click ‘Make my crossword‘:
editingHere’s what the resulting crosswords look like – you can print it into a pdf document in order to keep the worksheet for future use:





In this guessing game (tried out by Evgenia Antonova and Irina Dubovitskaya) the learners pick a slip with a word and say an example sentence, substituting ‘banana’ for the target word. Here are some examples:


Source: Evgeniya Antonova

Walk and swap

This is a variation of the Banana activity which requires only one set of cards for the group and allows the learners to stretch their legs. At the beginning each learner is given one or two cards with words. They get up and mingle to play banana. Each time someone guesses a word on their card, they give the card to that person. The aim of the activity is to swap cards as many times as possible.

Hot Seat

Another well-known simple activity that requires no preparation at all is Hot Seat. The class is split into two teams. Two learners (one from each team) sit with their back to the board. The teacher boards a word. The team explain the word to the person on the chair – the first team to guess gets a point.

Tying out of class revision with classroom activities

One thing that has really grown on me in the past couple of years is using Quizlet for vocabulary learning and revision. Quizlet is a free web service that allows you to create sets of flash cards and then share them with the learners by link. The learners can play a number of games with the flash cards (moreover, if they install the mobile app, they’ll be able to access them even when they’re offline).

The beauty of it is that the site also allows you to print out two-sided cards based on the sets that the learners worked with for homework. For example, here’s a worksheet generated from this set. This makes it possible to play a whole range of games in class based on exact same cards that the learners studied at home, without any extra preparation apart from cutting up the cards and printing the game boards. For a set of game templates that could be used with any set of cards, see this post (where you’ll find nice tic tac toe templates, dots and boxes, variations of snakes and ladders, battleship, blockbusters, Game of the Goose and a few other templates).

Revising multi-word items

Collocation cards

One really simple way to revise collocations is to prepare a set two-sided cards: a word on one card and 3-5 collocations taken from the collocations dictionary on the second side. Each turn, a learner takes a card, looks at the collocations and guess the word. Again, these cards can be prepared using Quizlet – in fact, see here for more examples of Quizlet sets that help learners practice collocations (created by Leo Selivan).

collocation cards

Source: Olga Akimkina

Tic tac toe

Another activity is to put gapped multi-word items on a Tic Tac Toe grid. The goal might be simply to recall the expression or to use it in a sentence to say a truthful fact or opinion.

Tips. If you’d like the learners to be able to check their answers, provide them with empty grids and two-sided cards. A no-cut alternative is to do the activity in groups of three, with one learner checking the players’ answers using a cheat sheet.

Tic tac toe

Source: Olga Lifshits

Discussion gapfills 

Another suggestion, also shared by Olga Lifshits, was to provide the learners with a gapfill in which each sentence is a question. Gapfills can be done with any vocabulary, but they work particularly well with multi-word items where only part of the item is gapped out.

After the learners do the gapfill, they pick 3-5 questions they’d like to discuss with their partner – this won’t necessarily make them use target lexical items in speech, but it will help them to process their meaning more deeply.

Here’s a sample set of questions:


Source: Olga Lifshits


Pelmanism is a game that allows one to revise two-part expressions (e.g. two-word collocations such as ‘meet + the deadline’, dependent prepositions, such as ‘interested + in’, two-word compound nouns, such as traffic lights, and so on).

Prepare a set of cards for each pair of learners (each expression should be split across two cards). The players spread the cards on the board, blank sides up. Each turn one player turns over two cards – if they form an expression, the player keeps the cards. If the cards belong to different expressions, the player puts them back.


Compound nouns (pelmanism). Source: Olga Lifshits

A lot of teachers avoid this game because it seems too time-consuming and because it focuses only on form without any emphasis on the meaning of the expressions. Here are a couple of modifications that may make it less time-consuming and more useful in terms of language practice:

  • each turn, a player turns over one card – if they can remember the whole expression, they’re allowed to look for the second card (or, to keep the element of chance, they are allowed to turn over, say, up to seven cards);
  • each time a player finds an expression, they need to either use it in a sentence (again, telling a true fact or stating an opinion) or ask their partner a question that contains the expression.


Another activity that allows one to practice two-part multi-word items is dominoes, which can easily be created in a Word document (see a sample Word table below). The players work in pairs or small groups. The learners need to arrange the dominoes on the desk in such a way that they form a circle.

Again, Dominoes is primarily a form-focused activity, but it can be adapted to focus on meaning by asking the learners to make a statement or ask their group a question with an expression each time put two dominoes together..


Collocation dominoes. Source: Olga Lifshits

Using lexis in extended speech

For all activities in this category you need a set of vocabulary cards to revise – these can be prepared by the teacher or pooled by the learners – simply give them 5 minutes to flip their notebooks and coursebooks and put on cards any words and expressions they’d like to start using but haven’t started using yet.

Guess my word

Prepare a set of discussion questions and a set of cards for each pair / small group. Each turn, one learner picks a vocabulary card and a discussion question. Their objective is to talk for a minute about the question and to use the word on their card at some point. The objective of their partner / group is to guess which word was on the card.

A by-product of this activity is that it encourages the learners to use more ‘interesting’ vocabulary, so that the ‘fancy’ word on their card isn’t too obvious. Another reason I liked this activity is that it can be used when each person has their individual set of cards (e.g. I used it with a group of teens who did out-of-class reading and accumulated their own vocabulary sets based on the books they were reading).

Picture-based story (tried out by Evgenia Antonova)

Prepare a set of target expressions, a picture and an opening line of a story (here’s a nice ‘first line generator’). Learners work in pairs or groups of three. Each team picks about 7 cards with vocabulary and a picture. They have about 10 minutes to create a story based on their pictures that uses the words they picked. Here are sample materials that were used with a group of advanced learners (but the activity worked equally well with a pre-intermediate group):

Picture based story


Source: Evgenia Antonova


The learners work in pairs. One person picks a slip with a word. They ask their partner a question trying to get them to use the word in the answer. The important thing is that their conversation should be as natural as possible: they shouldn’t give the definition or reply with just one word.

Here are some examples of questions that the learners asked to elicit vocabulary items:


Source: Evgenia Antonova

4-3-2 Speed dating 

This is an activity that I actually learned only today from Julia Galichanina, another colleague of mine, and I really look forward to trying it out.

Part 1. Give the learners a list of expressions and a list of categories (e.g. ‘Hobbies’, ‘Things I do every day’, ‘Things that aren’t related to work’, etc). Get the learners to decide which words could relate to which category (e.g. ‘occasionally’ could work everywhere, but ‘golf’ is more like a hobby)/ After that, each learner writes several sentences related to each category using target lexis.

Part 2. Split the group into interviewers and interviewees. The learners stand in two circles, with the interviewers in the inner circle.

  • During the first round (4 minutes) interviewers ask one interviewee any questions related to the categories, and the interviewees need to reply using as many target expressions as possible. The interviewers tick the expressions that the interviewee used. Conduct quick group feedback asking which expressions were used.
  • The learners go to the next partner and repeat the procedure in 3 minutes.
  • Finally, with a new partner, an interviewee gives a monologue summarizing their answers to the two interviewees questions.
  • The interviewers and interviewees swap roles and the 4-3-2 cycle is repeated.


Finally, here is another nice activity which was shared by Christina Rebuffet-Broadus at her conference workshop at IATEFL Poland:

Going through my notes from the workshop while writing this post, I realized that while I learned a few very useful activities that have since become my favourites, I completely forgot about some of the others. In particular, I’ll definitely be trying out picture-based stories and vocabulary dice.

Are there any great vocabulary revision activities that you’d add to this list?



Omitting -s in Present Simple sentences (*My dad work at a factory) is one of those pesky mistakes that cause us English teachers lots of grief. The rule is extremely simple and it’s one of the first rules the learners learn when they start out studying English. Yet when it comes to speaking, the learners keep forgetting about it. All of us have heard it in the staff room: an exasperated teacher complaining that the students just won’t pay attention and get that simple grammar point right!

Unfortunately studies show that third person -s is acquired a lot later than it’s taught – not until at least intermediate level (Ellis, 2009, page 44). One reason that I’ve seen in the literature is that a lot of grammar gets acquired from reading and listening, and the third person -s, as a morphological feature that agrees with the subject and doesn’t really change the meaning of the sentence, is a feature that is very easy for the adult brain, which is honed to processes information efficiently, not to notice in the input.

Here’s a simple game I created for my pre-intermediate teenage students to give them a chance to pay closer attention to this feature. In this game third person -s makes all the difference – the players choose who gains or loses points, based on the form of the verb.


Slip: The players can say:
??? get 5 points if *** can say five nouns that begin with ‘s’ in 30 seconds Pete and Tanya get 5 points if they can say five nouns…
I get 5 points if I can…
??? loses 5 points if *** can’t say 5 verbs that begin with ‘i’ in 30 seconds Mike loses 5 points if he can’t say 5 verbs…
Everyone loses 5 points if we can’t say…

We played the game from time to time right before working on reading texts that featured lots of examples of the third person -s – my hope being that attention to the feature would linger and they’d start noticing it in the texts.

Level: pre-intermediate

Time: 15 mins


  • something to serve as points (I use colour paper cut into 1cm squares);
  • a stop watch for each group of 4 students (my students used the ones on their mobile phones)
  • an editable Worksheet (cut-up slips for each group of 4 students; the rules sheet for each student); if you don’t have Microsoft Word, download a .pdf file from Slideshare:


Ellis, R. et al. (2009) Implicit and Explicit Knowledge in Second Language Learning, Testing and Teaching. Multilingual Matters

Update. Thanks for visiting my blog! I was very happy to learn that this post was shortlisted for Teaching English – British Council blog award. If you decide to vote for it, let them know by ‘liking’ the post on their Facebook page:


Last Friday we met together with a group of colleagues at EPAM Systems to share some of the ice-breakers, warmers and games that we use. Here are some of the warmers that we came up with. We teach in company, so many of the activities have a Business English flavour, but the great thing about these warmers is that they can be easily adapted to any topic, no matter whether you teach Business or General English.

Start with a picture

  • Display a picture and get the students to guess the topic
  • Do the same but reveal the picture gradually using
  • Find a clipart shape connected to the topic (Google topic + clipart). Here’s a sample for ‘Presenting’:
    Once the students have looked at the picture and guessed the topic, elicit a few associations they have with the topic (this could be words, events from their personal lives). Ideally, share your own non-obvious association and get the students to ask you a bit about it (mine is ‘Germans’, because my first ever important presentation was at a Russian-German student conference). After that, distribute A4 copies of the clipart shape for each student and allow 2-3 minutes for the students to free-write their associations inside the shape. After that, allow another 3-4 minutes for the students to share their associations in small groups to compare, ask about surprising ones, and chat about them. 
  • A great warmer suggested by my colleague Olga Lifshits was to google comic strips on the topic of the lesson, distribute them and get the students to guess the topic.
  • If you teach a monolingual group, yet another idea for comic strips is to look for their translation into your students’ L1 and get the students to translate the comic strip back into English, comparing with the original.
  • Yet another alternative is to display a few memes to get the students to discuss the topic – see this post for a summary of a talk by Anastasiya Fetisova on using memes in ELT.
    YYRQKTip: have some discussion prompts based on the images ready!
  • In this activity by Katherine Bilsborough, the teacher displays a picture and provides ten answers about it. The students write their questions in pairs. Again, this activity can be easily adapted to any topic.  Here’s a business-related example, e.g. for work-life balance:The_Hoya_office1. A report.
    2. By Monday at the latest.
    3. With her colleague Kate.
    4. Because she’s tired.
    5. Not really.
    6. Yes.
    7. Saturday
    8. Since 8 a.m.

Start with a sound

  • Have you ever led into the topic of a lesson with a sound? Here’s an idea: google ‘free sound effects’ and choose a sound related to the topic (e.g. the sounds of nature for ‘travel’). Play the sound for a minute and get the students to imagine where they are / jot down their associations / or guide them by ask them questions, e.g. ‘where is this? who do you imagine there? would you like to be in that place?’, etc – then get them to share in pairs.
    This is a sound file I found for travel: Maybe I haven’t been on holiday a bit too long, but I really enjoyed listening to that audio and it really jogged my imagination.

Start with a prop

  • For ‘plans’ take out a few things you’ve got in your bag / share a ‘todo list’ written in shorthand and get the students to guess what you’re planning to do.

Play a guessing game

This warmer is my personal favourite.

  • On slips of paper write some words connected to the topic. Get the s/s to explain their words (either working in pairs or in a mingling activity). Elicit the topic.
    For instance, for ‘Decision making’, you could use disagree / discussion / problem / options / argument.

Start with a word cloud

Google an article connected with your topic. Copy the text and insert it into a word cloud maker. Display the text, for the learners to guess the topic and then to race to find as many words as possible connected to the topic in 60 seconds.



  • This is an activity from Five minute activities by Penny Ur and Andrew Wright. Tell the group the topic and get them to brainstorm five or six phrases connected to the topic. After them get them to choose the odd one out and justify why it doesn’t fit. Erase it from the board and repeat until there is only one word.
  • Write cards with concepts/events connected with the topic (e.g., for ‘Business travel’, you could have  things to pack / things that might go wrong / benefits of business travel over teleconferencing /  places / etc). S/s work in pairs: each turn one student draws a slip with the topic and rolls a dice to find out how many expressions connected with the topic they have to come up with. If you don’t have dice, get the students to roll online dice using their mobile phones.
  • Get the group to brainstorm input/contexts to be used later in the lesson for language work.
    Example 1: A pre-intermediate group studying ‘will’ for spontaneous reactions in the context of travel. At the beginning of the lesson I got them to brainstorm places where they can find themselves while on a business trip.
    Business travel
    Halfway through the lesson the students used the spidergram to play a game: one student in each pair (‘the boss’) picked a location from the list, imagined they were having a problem there and complained about it to the second student (‘an assistant’); the second student replied with ‘Don’t worry, I’ll + solution’.
    Example 2: An upper-intermediate group studying conjunctions (provided, unless, etc).  For a warmer, they brainstormed hopes and worries that a recent graduate starting out in their company might have (e.g. ‘I hope I’ll receive support from more experienced colleagues’ or ‘I hope to earn a lot of money fast.’) At some point in the lesson the students returned to the list, responding to the worries using conditional sentences (e.g. ‘Yeah, your colleagues will help you a lot, provided you bring them cookies!‘ or ‘That’s unlikely to happen unless you climb the career ladder very quickly.’)

Start with a quote 

This one is a classic: google an interesting quote related to the topic of the lesson and get the students to discuss it. Some tweaks could be to:

  • Get the students to complete the quote individually or in pairs (e.g. for Teamwork,  When you form a team, why do you try to form a team? Because _______ ; Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to ________________). Board the students’ suggestions and get them to discuss them in pairs/groups.
  • Find more than one quote, get the students to match beginnings with endings, then discuss which quotes they agree with / choose one quote they disagree with and try and persuade someone else that it’s wrong / randomly assign a quote to agree/disagree with to each pair and get them to brainstorm arguments and life examples in favour/against.
    “ I love teamwork. It is about bringing out the ambitions of your team.”
    “If two men on the same job agree all the time, then one is useless. I love the idea of everyone rallying together to help me win.”
    “Leadership is not about your ambition. If they disagree all the time, both are useless.”

    As for the source of quotes, I personally quite like


  • Another colleague suggested getting the students to write down 2-3 positive things going on in their life (or 2-3 positive things in their life connected to the topic) and 2-3 negative things. Get them to share in pairs / exchange tips. Works especially well as a lead-in to Problem solving.
  • If the topic is connected so some kind of event, e.g. ‘presenting’ or ‘job interviews’, ask the students to fill the gap in the sentence ‘[Presenting] could be  ____________’ (e.g. time-consuming / important for your career / stressful / a waste of time / a really nice experience / rewarding / …). After that, get the students to share in small groups which of the kinds of experiences with [presenting] listed on the board they’ve had,- encourage them to ask follow-up questions, go into detail and chat! Alternatively, play a guessing game: a student might describe an experience without saying which type of experience he/she is talking about.

Get the students to talk

  • Print out discussion questions on A4 sheets and put them on the floor. Tell the learners that the sheets are ‘islands’. Put on some music: while the music is playing, the learners simply walk around, ‘swimming’, and as soon as it stops, they stop next to the nearest discussion question, and discuss it with other learners who landed on the same ‘island’.
  • Another activity suggested during the workshop was to display 2-3 questions related to the topic, pair the students up and get one person in each pair to talk about the questions and the other one listen without commenting or taking notes. After that the person who was listening says ‘So you said…‘ and summarizes / retells what the first person said.
  • One more option is to group the students in groups of 3-4 and get them to ask ‘Have you ever…‘ questions related to the topic of the lesson. The twist is that they are only allowed to answer ‘yes’ (alternatively, they might only be allowed to answer with a lie). They have to provide a justification for their answer. E.g. on the topic of meetings, the students might ask ‘Have you ever fallen asleep in a meeting?’ and the person answering the question would have to say ‘yes’ and explain why this happened.
  • Another great warmer is ‘Fortunately/Unfortunately‘. Start the class with a sentence, e.g. ‘I was on my way to a meeting with a new customer but unfortunately..’ The students in the group take turns to add one more sentence to the story, each time starting with ‘fortunately’ or ‘unfortunately’.
  • True/False. This is probably something that every teacher has used at some point: get the students to write 3 facts about themselves connected with the topic. Some of these facts should be true and some should be false. Other students in the group need to guess which ones are false by asking follow-up questions.

Start with an improvisation

Since writing this post, I’ve discovered this great workshop on integrating improvisational theatre activities in the business classroom by Christina Rebuffet-Broadus. Some great short, creative, highly adaptable warmers there – please don’t get put off by the ‘improvisational theatre’ bit – I think they’re great for students who ‘would never do theatre’.


Make it S.M.A.R.T

  • If you teach using a coursebook / printed materials, why not let the students look through the material at the beginning of a unit/module and get them to set goals for themselves for the next two or three weeks and share those goals with their group mates? You could support them by providing them with some questions e.g.:
    What do you already know about vocabulary / grammar /skills topics in this module? Do you find these topics easy or difficult? What would you like  to learn?
    What personal experiences related to these topics have you got?
    In what situations might you use the material from this unit in the future?
    What would you consider to be a good outcome by the end of this module?
    How and how much are you planning to work outside class?

Acknowledgement. A big thank you goes to my colleagues at EPAM Systems: to Anna Zernova, who suggested the ‘positive/negative’ warmer, Olga Lifshits, who shared ‘So you said’ and the idea to use comic strips, Evgenia Antonova and Anastasiya Chernetskaya who remembered variations of the ‘Truth or Lie’ game, Iryna
Piatrouskaya who demonstrated the ‘Discussion island’ warmer in her workshop, and Adam Howell for sharing ‘Fortunately/Unfortunately.’

We want more! 🙂
Have you used any other flexible warmers that could be easily adapted to a range of topics? Please share!

St. Valentine’s day is approaching so here’s a lesson plan on the topic of love and friendship. Students warm up by playing a word game (stages 4-5) that

  • encourages them to think deeper about what they read into a range of concepts related to love and friendship and
  • pushes them to recall vocabulary on these topics

The lesson ends in a discussion activity (stage 6).

Level: B1-C1
Length: 30-60 min (depending on whether you do the discussion activity)
Focus: speaking (a conversation class)
Materials: Worksheet

Stage One. Tell the students that you’re going to show them several photos and that you found all of these photos with one search on Google. Ask them to guess the search term. Board all their suggestions. (My search term was ‘St. Valentine’s day’, but anything topic-related will do.)
(Collage produced using

[Optional] If the students came up with the topic of St. Valentine’s day and it seems to be relevant, ask them, ‘What other words do you associate with this topic?’ (board all suggestions, positive ones alongside negative ones, e.g. ‘commercialized’).

Say ‘I’m thinking of one of these pictures. I’ll tell you my associations – guess which picture I’m thinking about (this is the picture of three hands).

  • unity
  • support
  • friendship
  • vow (for a B2-C1 class)

Get the students to quiz each other in new pairs: one person chooses a picture and says their associations, the second guesses which picture is being described; listen in an board some of the students’ associations. FB: By this point there should be more than 20-30 words on the board (some possible associations: stained glass/ saint/ candies/ newborn/ aisle/ unity/ loyalty/ smooch/ swans/ merchandise). Refer the s/s to the board and ask them which words can be associated with more than one picture. 

Stage Two.

Tell the students that you’re going to play an extract from a song. Tell them that the title of this song is an emotion and that their task is to guess the title. Play one or two times without the video (black out the projector by pressing B); when the s/s understand that the title is ‘love’ either cirle it if it’s already on the board or  board it. Say: the title is spelled incorrectly now. How to spell it right? Play one more time if necessary (the singer says how he interprets each letter in the word ‘love’, so it should be spelled L.O.V.E.)

Stage Three. Board and ask the student to copy the following 4 lines (alternatively, print them out beforehand)
L ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ look at me
O ______ ______ ______ only one ______ ______
V ______ ‘very very ______’
E ______ ‘even more ______ ______ ______ ______ ______’
Ask them to try and remember what goes into the gaps; and then play the first line and ask them to predict what should be in the second line; play the rest of the extract. Say that you’re going to interpret the rest of the words on the board in the same way. At this point, add full stops in some of the words in a different colour.

Stage Four. Say that you’re going to give the students an example: that you’re thinking of a word and that you’re going to give them letters from that word in random order but that you’ll say how you interpret each letter. The students should try and guess the word before all letters have been revealed (allow 30 seconds thinking time after giving each letter & its interpretation – use a timer. If the class guesses the word (‘smile’) earlier than all letters have been revealed, encourage them to come up with associations for the remaining letters.

L is for ‘universal language
S is for the way it can start a friendship
E is for emotion and positive energy that you share // add ‘encouragement’ with advanced students
M is for mouth
I is for intrigue, inspiration and interaction

Tell the students that now they are going to challenge each other in the same way. Ask them to work in pairs or groups of 3 and choose more words from the ones listed on the board. Their objective is to find associations they both share and, if they come up with more than one association for the same letter, they should discuss which association is more interesting. Allow 10 minutes – or more if the discussion is lively.

You could play the song while they’re working.

Stage Five. Students play the guessing game – either as a whole group/ in groups consisting of two pairs from stage five / in new pairs.

Stage Six.
Project/print out questions for students to discuss. Ask each person to pick 4-5 questions. Optionally, after some of the pairs have finished, regroup the students.

    • What do you look for in friends? Do all your friends have something in common or are some of them very different from others?
    • Do you think your friends who don’t know each other would get along? Why/why not?
      Tell your partner about two friends who you think wouldn’t get along/would get along especially well.
    • What was your best friendship? Are you still friends with him or her? What is your first memory of that person? What is your happiest memory of that person?
    • What qualities do you admire in other people?
    • What behavior of others hurts you most? When you have upset someone by your actions, what do you try to do?
    • Who are the best/the most inspiring/ the most unlikely couples/friends you know?
    • What’s your attitude towards Valentine’s Day?
      Do you think it makes single people feel lonely?
      Do you think Valentine’s Day is too commercial or consumerist?
    • Do you remember giving someone a very heartfelt gift? Who did you give it to? Why did you feel so strongly about this gift?
    • Have you received any gifts that you still keep and would be very upset to lose? Who and when gave them to you?

Monitor to collect instances of topic-related language that could be corrected/upgraded; content feedback; language feedback.

(some of these questions were taken from & &

If you’re short of time, you can skip Stage 1 and prepare words for stage five yourself. Cut them up into unique slips if you want to conduct stage six as a whole-class activity, or print a list for each pair (two different lists in total) if you’d like to re-group the students.
Here are some suggested words:
Pair A:

Pair B

Pair A:

Pair B:

Links to the photos used in the collage above: