Vocabulary Frisbee: A Game that Helps Students Exercise Both their Minds and Their Bodies while Brushing up Their English

Charles McLarty, Hokkaido University of Information Science

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Communication, throw, catch, interact
  • Learner English level: Elementary to advanced
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school and above
  • Preparation time: 5-10 minutes
  • Activity time: 15-30 minutes
  • Materials: Frisbee and a large classroom or outdoor space

This is a game I recently hit upon when I noticed two things about students at our campus. First, many of them seemed to get drowsy in class during afternoon lectures and, second, many of them enjoy playing frisbee between classes. By playing frisbee while speaking English, I think teachers can kill two birds with one stone. Further, using a frisbee reduces the risk of injuries or property damage that could be caused by throwing balls.


Step 1: Tell students to check their lesson materials (either printed copies or information on their laptops) to remember key vocabulary since they won't have time to do so during the game.

Step 2: Inform students that only English is allowed. 

Step 3: Have students stand up and take a quick stretch break. As this is a physical activity, their bodies need to get limbered up to participate effectively in the game. 

Step 4: Ask students if they have prior frisbee experience. Assure any frisbee novices that the teacher will show them how to throw and catch it so not to worry about making mistakes.


Step 1: Have the students stand in two parallel lines facing each other, with the lines about five to 10 feet apart. Next, demonstrate the proper way to throw a frisbee. For large classes, students can be split up into two groups, provided more than one frisbee is available. 

Step 2: Let students get used to the frisbee by throwing and catching it for a few minutes. Each student can throw it to the student directly opposite him. After one round, tell students to await your next instructions.

Step 3: Next, inform students that they must now speak English before throwing the frisbee. At this stage, I allow them to say any English word they want. I require students to use “real words” like nouns or verbs. However, proper nouns are okay if a teacher deems these acceptable.

Step 4: Now tell students that their words must connect with other students' words in a shiritori style. Each student must use a word in which the first letter matches the last letter of the previous word. If one student says dream, the next student can say make. 

Step 5: Finally, have students use phrases or short sentences. In one class, I had students say, "I like_____________. How about you?" The teacher can also have students use expressions they have studied in recent lessons as a review.

By now, students should be used to the game's procedure. Teachers can improvise if they wish to continue the game further. For example, I sometimes let students ask the next student a question of their choice before throwing the frisbee.


This is a good game for classes with short attention spans. Since both their minds and bodies are engaged, their concentration is less likely to waver. Students of all ages and ability levels can enjoy this game. Teachers can reward students who make good throws or nice catches. Students can be rewarded for good language use or penalized for poor usage. The best part of this activity I have found is that students become more relaxed when playing frisbee. Once relaxed, they become more active communicators. Thus, I highly recommend teachers to try this game.