Search Carefully! Stimulating Educational Word Guessing Activity

Tsai I- Ting, Graduate Student, Akita International University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Vocabulary, educational guessing words from context, cooperative learning
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: High School and above
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Activity time: 90 minutes 
  • Materials: A print out of a reading passage and a word list 

Words are infinite, therefore, guessing the meaning of words from context is an important skill to learn. However, most students have little understanding of how to do it. This vocabulary activity encourages students to guess the definition of words from context while reading by using the SADIE-O technique. SADIE-O stands for synonyms, antonyms, definitions, inferences, examples and others. Through learning these reading skills in a cooperative learning environment and applying them in games and speaking, students can become motivated to boost their vocabularies. 



Step 1: Make a list of ten to fifteen words or indicate the words in bold font on a reading text based on the students’ language proficiency level.
Step 2: Prepare a slide to introduce SADIE-O to students with examples (Appendix).

Step 3: Put students into groups of three.

Step 4: Hand out the word list or reading text to the groups.



Step 1: Use one or two example sentences to explain a single technique, and go through all six techniques.

Step 2: Give some example sentences and have groups of students guess the unknown and highlighted word, as well as how they got the answer. Write down the answers on a small whiteboard.

Step 3: Next, show students the answers that are written on the board. If there are different answers among groups, groups can express their thoughts to support their answers. Finally, the instructor will judge the answers and give the point to the group that has the most accurate answer.
Step 4: After the introductory group work is done, pass out the reading material and word list, and have students read in groups and circle the words that are on the word list.

Step 5: Then tell students to work in groups to figure out the meanings of the words on the list by using the SADIE-O technique.

Step 6: Students then share what they think each word means with other groups. This might be done by making a sentence with the word, drawing a picture, or doing a gesture. The group that has guessed the correct definition of the word gets a point.

Step 7: If it is impossible for any group to figure out the answer, let students look up the meaning in a dictionary. In this case no one gets a point. 

Step 8: Repeat Steps 5-7 until all the words on the list have been completed. The group that gets the most points wins.

Step 9: Last, each group reads the passage again and uses as many of the words on the list as they can to make up their own story.



This lesson introduces several word guessing strategies and games that can motivate students to learn new words in an interactive and enjoyable way. Moreover, giving them a chance to figure out and use different new words throughout the year will improve their ability to not only learn new words but also how to use them in a meaningful context.



The appendix is available below.