Learning occupation names in English

Mark Gerrard and Jack Ryan, Aichi University

Quick guide

  • Key words: Jobs, occupations
  • Learner English level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Learner Maturity level: First-year university, high school
  • Preparation time: 30 to 60 minutes
  • Activity time: 60 to 90 minutes
  • Materials: Whiteboard, handouts


This activity, which is designed for classes of about 25 students, is a variation of 20Questions in which students will become familiar with names of occupations as theypractice asking and answering questions about various jobs.


Step 1: Prepare by laminating two sets of Occupation Cards (Appendix A).


Step 1:First, break students into fivegroups and give each group a number, from1 through 5.

Step 2:Pass out the Occupations handout (Appendix B). Students may work individually, in pairs, or in groups to match the English name of the job on the left with the corresponding job in Japanese on the right by placing the correct number in the space on the right.

Step 3:Confirm the answers by calling out the Japanese name and having students raise their hands and answer with the English translation. With our students we make a game of it by giving each group a point when theyanswer correctly.

Step 4:Pass out the handout titled Question Options(Appendix C).

Step 5:Explain that the stack of laminated Occupation Cards you are holding havethe names of the 51 occupations listed on the Occupationshandout. For a less challenging activity, you could limit yourself to using the first half of the jobs on the Occupations handout,which lists 28 jobs.

Step 6:Make a show of selecting one card from the stack and explain that you would like each group to take turns asking you a question as they try to guess which card you are holding. To make it more competitive, give the group that successfully guesses your occupation bonus points.

Step 7:Give each group two or three minutes to come up with at least three original questions that they must write on the Question Options handout.

Step 8:Pass out the handout titled Jobs (Appendix D)as well as one job card to one student in each group. Thenhave each of the five students holding a job card rotate clockwise to another group. The student holding the job card must hide the card and answer questions about that job. The other group members take turns asking their guest questions,trying to narrow down and then guess what the job is within the allotted five minutes.

Step 9:Refer to the Question Options handout and explain that when a group member asks a question (e.g.,Do you work outside?) a scorekeeper should mark anX through the number 10under thePoints column. When the next group member asks the second question, the scorekeeper should mark anX through the number 9 inthe points column, and so on. When they correctly guess the job, the number below the last number with anX through it is the number of points they have earned for that round. The scorekeeper should then write, for example, a 5 in the Round 1 Points column and the name of the job in the Job Name (answer) column of the Jobs handout.

Step 10:After the five minutes are up (or before,if all jobs have successfully been guessed) the students with the job cards return to their groupsand return their job cards to the teacher. The teacher then hands out five new job cards to the next student in each group. Repeat this procedure until each member of all five groups has had a chance to both ask and answer questions.

Step 11:Upon completion,each group tallies up their total points through five rounds and writes the results on the board.


This activity allows for communicative practice in asking and answering questions about a variety of different occupations. It is also a good way to help build confidence by allowing students to interact and develop a rapport with many different classmates.