A race activity for junior & senior high school lessons

Andrew Henderson, Utsunomiya University

Quick guide

  • Keywords: Race game, vocabulary-builder, question/answer activity
  • Learner English Level: Beginner to high beginner
  • Learner maturity: Junior and senior high school
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Materials: Stop watch, 5 vocabulary cards

There are two parts to this short activity: a vocabulary-building activity and a race game. The aim is for students to walk away from this lesson having learned five new vocabulary items and the vocabulary and grammar patterns necessary for asking and answering questions. These patterns for questions and answers lend themselves to a variety of simple past-tense usages (e.g., the question How did you come to school today? and its answer, I came by bike; or How did you pass the test? and I studied hard). 

These patterns for questions and answers are aimed at building a simple but solid foundation from which to progressively grow larger structures. The additional aim with the grammar patterns is to teach students grammar surreptitiously; students learn grammar without realizing or finding it boring or overly bookish. 


Step 1: Go to any free clipart website. Copy and paste any five photos onto a blank document that relate to your lesson.

Step 2: Print the document in color. Cut each picture out to make five separate vocabulary cards.

Step 3: Return to the site and paste these pictures, once again, onto an A3 landscape document. Make each picture as large as possible.


Step 1: Place the poster on the whiteboard. Point to your poster and ask about today’s topic for study until someone tries an answer. If the answer comes as one word, get student to repeat the word, and then put it into a sentence. Write the word on the board and direct students to read it. Allow several tries before giving them the pronunciation.

Step 2: Point to the first vocabulary clipart and solicit an answer as to its English noun. Wait for an answer. Then either correct the word or repeat the word three times and write the word above its picture. Do this for the rest of the of the vocabulary pictures.

Step 3: Write your key question for the activity on the board. Have students read it from the board and repeat it twice. Beneath the question, write the first words of an answer to create a sentence stem or grammar pattern. For the answer to How did you come to school today?, you might write I came by . . . Have students read the answer and repeat it twice. Move to your poster and point to the first picture. Solicit the question, while pointing to it. Then solicit the answer by pointing to your first picture.

Step 4: Repeat step 3, getting faster each time.

Step 5: Begin the race game activity, a question-and-answer session. Make three teams, with students in A-B pairs. Instruct Student A to ask the question (e.g., How did you come to school today?). Instruct Student B to answer the question using the answer pattern on the board and the vocabulary card given them. Give each Student B in Team 1 one of the five cut-out vocabulary cards and get your stop watch ready to count.

Step 6: Point to the first Student A in the first team, prompting the first question. Go through the team with this activity, write their time on the board, and then move to the next team. When all are complete, announce and indicate the winning team. Now, perform the same activity, swapping Student A (asking) with Student B (answering). Go through the activity again with the team in this arrangement, write their time on the board, and then move to the next team. When all are complete, announce and indicate the winning team again. 


In my experience, students respond well to this interactive activity and to the challenge of the race game. These activities can lend themselves to other vocabulary-building lessons on any topic at the beginner level, in addition to Q&A-type learning activities.