Guessing Game: Vocabulary Review Game for ESL Students
Time: 20 minutes
Level: Beginner to Advanced
Materials Required: Flip-chart or flashcards
The captain sits in a chair at the front of the class facing her team. The teacher stands behind the captain with vocabulary words on a flip-chart or a stack of flashcards. If you use flashcards, make sure they are big enough for everyone to be able to see them, even at the back of the class. The team has to give hints in English (no gestures) to the captain until she can guess the word. At that point, the team moves on to the next word. Each round is three minutes and you can play 3-4 rounds with different captains. I give each group one pass per round in case there is a word that the captain really doesn’t know.
One of the ways that students gain fluency is by employing communication strategies such as substitution, which means that when a student can’t remember the specific vocabulary word that they want to use, they’re able to substitute another word, or phrase to get their meaning across. This game is very useful for practicing substitution skills in a fun way.
Make sure you emphasize that this game requires speaking only English. It is simply too easy for students to say the word in the their first language, the captain says it in English and then it’s not a useful speaking activity. I warn students at the beginning of the game that if I hear a word in their first language, that round will immediately finish, even if they are only 5 seconds into it.
One of the cons of this game is that the other team is sitting idly waiting while the other team is playing. A way to alleviate this problem is by keeping the rounds very short so that waiting time is reduced. You can also mention that any word that a team has “passed” on could come back into play so it’s good to pay attention. Furthermore, elicit the other team’s help to watch for any infractions such as gesturing, miming, or not speaking in English.
1. Prepare a large flip-chart of flashcards with your target vocabulary. I often use an old notebook.
2. Put the students into teams of 4-8. They choose their captain for the first round.
3. The first team sends their captain to the front of the class who sits in a chair facing their team, while the teacher stands behind them with the flashcards. Give the team 3 minutes to describe as many words as possible, using only English to the captain who must guess them. The teacher keeps track of how many correct words the team got.
4. Continue to play until all teams have played an equal number of rounds, with different captains for each round.
5. The team with the most points at the end of all the rounds is the winner.
Like this ESL speaking activity? There are 38 more in this book: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults