Word of the week

Sharon McCulloch, Tokyo Women’s Christian University


Quick guide

  • Key words: Vocabulary, presenting, collocation, word families
  • Learner English level: Low intermediate to advanced
  • Learner age: Teenagers and up
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes for initial preparation of sample and handout, then none
  • Activity time: Up to 5 minutes
  • Materials: Chalkboard, whiteboard, or OHP



I began doing Word of the Week with a group of graduate students who were preparing for master’s study in the UK, as part of their Academic Vocabulary and Grammar syllabus. It gave the students a chance to research a word of their choice in greater depth than usual, allowed them an element of choice about the vocabulary they learned, and simultaneously enabled them to practice their presentation skills.

In this activity, students present a word or phrase of their choosing to the class. The information presented includes:


The word class (verb, noun, adjective)

Any component parts (e.g., INconsistent)

Other members of the word family

The meaning, with an example

The pronunciation, including number of syllables

Common collocations

A translation

Why the word was chosen

Where it was found

Hints for remembering the word


Word of the Week is best introduced after students are already familiar with concepts such as collocation and word families.



Step 1: Explain the concept of Word of the Week and present an example on the board (see Appendix A).

Step 2: Give students the summary handout and example to read in class or at home (see Appendix B).

Step 3: Create a presentation order by asking for volunteers or choose a stronger student to go first. For bigger classes, students can prepare and present in pairs.

Step 4: Require that students use the whiteboard or OHP to support their presentations, talk for no longer than 5 minutes, and be prepared to field questions afterwards.

Step 5: As the term progresses, keep track of each student’s Word of the Week and create periodic in-class quizzes to test the group’s knowledge of the words presented.

Step 6: Towards the end of the course, create a list of all the Words of the Week for reference, or ask the students to prepare it.


One advantage of this sort of vocabulary presentation is that it allows students some control over the words they focus on. It also requires students to consider aspects of knowing a word other than simply the definition. This helps raise awareness of word classes and morphology and encourages students to make complete records about vocabulary they want to learn. It also encourages students to share strategies for learning and remembering new vocabulary.

One recommended restriction is to limit word choice to recently encountered vocabulary, or to potentially interesting or useful words students don’t yet know well. Most students tend to choose words from readings they have done in other classes. You could, of course, restrict the theme to vocabulary previously taught or vocabulary from a particular area of need. 

Appendices: See below