Banana Sentences

Gunther Wiest, ADA University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Vocabulary, context, voice projection
  • Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: High school and university
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Activity time: 45-60 minutes
  • Materials:  Paper, student copies and big displays of target vocabulary, pencils, appendix

All aboard for a swirly, sometimes slippery, ride ending in a ‘compost’ of experience with engaging vocabulary review of several recent textbook units! Also, practice the stressed/unstressed sound structure of English as in BANANA: /bə’nænə/.


Step 1: Select 60-120 words/expressions from 3-5 recent units. Include major parts of speech.

Step 2: Configure those items for maximum visibility and display beside the motivational photos provided in the appendix.

Step 3: Pair up students. If the total number is odd, have a volunteer work alone.

Step 4: Each pair randomly selects 1-2 words/expressions from each unit, totalling 4-6. Together they should compose original sentences, then neatly cross out each target item and write BANANA above.  Beforehand, you could quickly give 2-3 examples. Let them guess what the BANANA of each of your sentences represents and state that they will be doing the same with classmates’ creations. If preferable, complete Steps 2-4 in one class session and play the game in the next.

Step 5: Read a sentence without any context, such as “I was BANANA yesterday.” Students will understand that this sentence is too challenging, since any target adjective fits. Give another bad example. Next, re-read these two, but add context by lengthening them or tagging on a second one. Then, ask if the importance of context is clear.


Step 1: Designate the first pair, motion the order of play (hopefully circular), and then explain the rules:

Student A (of the pair) selects any BANANA sentence and reads it loudly, without saying the related unit.  Student B waits a few seconds, then chooses a classmate whose hand is raised (not necessarily the first). Classmates’ names must be said clearly to avoid confusion.

Only 5 groups can make 1 guess each unless Student A repeats the sentence.

In case of repetition, the total possible number of groups making guesses drops from 5 to 3. Only the pair who is reading can decide whether to repeat.

When another pair guesses correctly, both they and the readers score 1 point. Other possible answers may exist, but only that which was replaced by BANANA can yield points.

In every round, Students A and B switch roles.

Each group records their own points. If scrutinized, each group must explain them all.

After points are scored, the same BANANA cannot be reused.

Step 2: The first pair begins. Reiterate some of the rules when necessary.

Step 3: Give useful feedback during pauses in the game and afterward.

Step 4: To determine final scores and the winning pair(s), stop the game when a round finishes. One hour usually equals 3-5 rounds.


Adjustments to the game include: a) More challenging scoring systems, b) Requiring word forms of the target vocabulary, c) Using BANANA twice in one utterance (advanced), d) Emphasis of accuracy over fluency with 0 points for ungrammatical sentences (may stifle creativity), e) Student-led dictation components; everyone writes down point-bearing utterances as well as original reconstructions of all ‘0 pointers’.


Students love this game for its creative contexts, high engagement, and laughs. Their undivided attention enables multiple teachable moments. The flow between student pair readings, guesses and teacher feedback results in a very dynamic and responsive review. Even the shyest of students will shine!


The appendix is available as a downloadable PDF file article below.