- Keywords: Vocabulary, collaboration, context
- Learner English level: All levels
- Learner maturity: Recommended for high school level and up
- Preparation time: 10 minutes
- Activity time: 20 to 40 minutes
- Materials: Vocabulary list, whiteboard/chalkboard, scrap paper for students, transparency or projector (optional)
Vocabulary instruction is often decontextualized and meaning focused, and frequently eschews real language use. Experts in vocabulary instruction speak of vocabulary learning depth and breadth. One of the highest levels of vocabulary mastery is the ability to use the word in novel ways. This activity involves students in a highly engaging game which forces them to experiment with and learn to use vocabulary in a collaborative environment. This is because students’ collective vocabulary knowledge is required to complete each round.
Step 1: Prepare the vocabulary list. Select a range of vocabulary that you want students to learn or practice using. It is useful if students at least have receptive knowledge of most of the words. For example, in university level classes, you may want to select words from most frequent words lists. The final list should be from 30-50 words in length with most of the words at a comfortable level for students.
Step 2: Prepare how you will display the vocabulary list for the whole class. You may use a transparency, or a computer or mobile device with a projector. You will need a way to cross out words from the list that is displayed for the class. Alternatively, you could write the list of words on the whiteboard/chalkboard.
Step 1: Arrange students into groups of 3-4.
Step 2: Display the vocabulary list so that it is visible for all students.
Step 3: Explain the objective and rules of the game: Groups work together to create an original perfect sentence for any of the vocabulary words that they choose from the list. When a group finishes a sentence, they bring it to the teacher. If the sentence is perfect (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.) the group receives one point. Cross the word off the master list. The same word may not be used again by any of the groups. If the sentence is not correct – tell students that it is not correct, offering only a short explanation as to the reason, for example, “grammar” or “spelling.” Students return to their group to attempt to revise the sentence and create new sentences. A group may show the teacher a maximum of 2 sentences at a time.
Step 4: Begin the first round. To earn points during this round, each sentence must be a minimum of 5 words in length.
Step 5: After about 10 minutes, or when about one third of the vocabulary has been correctly used, stop the students.
Step 6: Increase the minimum number of words to 7. Begin the second round. Continue playing until most of the words have been correctly used in an original sentence.
Step 7: Explain the rules of the final round. Choose 2 of the remaining words. Groups work together to create a sentence of 9 words or more in length for each of these words. However, during this round each sentence is worth 5 points. Groups only get one chance to submit each sentence; all members should agree to submit the sentences to the teacher.
Step 8: Tally up the points and announce the winner.
This activity utilizes students’ prior knowledge of grammar and vocabulary to produce new, original output. The activity is a way to review new vocabulary while practicing using correct grammatical structures.