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Vocabulary activities



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Vocabulary activities
Practical activities to help students with vocabulary learning.

  • Hot seat
  • Vocabulary phonemic revision activity
  • Vocabulary self-study activities
  • Washing line - teaching clothes vocabualry


Hot seat

Callum Robertson
This is a good activity for getting your students going in the morning. It is also excellent for revising vocabulary.

  • First, split your class into different teams (two is best, but if you have a large class, any number could be used).
  • Sit the students facing the board.
  • Then take an empty chair - one for each team - and put it at the front of the class, facing the team members. These chairs are the 'hot seats'
  • Then get one member from each team to come up and sit in that chair, so they are facing their team-mates and have their back to the board.
  • As the teacher, have a list of vocabulary items that you want to use in this game.
  • Take the first word from that list and write it clearly on the board.
  • The aim of the game 252t1911c is for the students in the teams to describe that word, using synonyms, antonyms, definitions etc. to their team mate who is in the hot seat - that person can't see the word!
  • The student in the hot seat listens to their team mates and tries to guess the word.
  • The first hot seat student to say the word wins a point for their team.
  • Then change the students over, with a new member of each team taking their place in their team's hot seat.
  • Then write the next word.

This is a very lively activity and can be adapted to different class sizes. If you have many teams, perhaps some teams wait to play. Or if the team sizes are large, you can restrict how many team members do the describing. Have fun!

Vocabulary phonemic revision activity
Elisabeth Boeck

I am a great believer in teaching phonetic script with new words, alongside their spelling, stress patterns and L1 equivalents. Being able to work out the correct pronunciation of a word from the dictionary all on their own helps the learner to become autonomous and independent of any 'helpers' in real life situations.

So one of my revision exercises goes like this:

I draw up a list of the new words recently encountered in class, but I do so exclusively in phonetic script.

The class is divided into groups A and B. I hand out one list to each group. In their groups, students work out the 'real' form of their words. The teacher goes round checking for correctness.

Then group A gets a separate copy of group B's word list (phonetic). Group B students take turns dictating their words to group A, making up sentences with each respective word. Group A write down the words next to the already provided phonemic script.

The same procedure is used by group A testing their words on group B.

We then make transparency copies of both lists, put them on the OHP, and in plenum check for correct spelling. Also in plenum, words are translated into their L1 equivalents.

Vocabulary self-study activities
Elisabeth Boeck Here are some tips you can give your students to help them with their vocabulary acquisition and self study.

  • Make your own word box
    • Use one card per word, with the English on one side and a translation on the other.
    • Test yourself with the cards, sort them into categories, play games with them.
  • Find a good basic vocabulary word list, say of about 1 - 2000 words which are sorted according to subject areas.
    • Revise 8 words per day regularly.In your mind, try to lock the particular word onto the image of an object (e.g. 'influenza' - think of a person sneezing.
    • To practise, randomly pick a number of words and make up a simple, but probably crazy, story using the words. You can do the same with the words in your vocabulary box.
  • Have a good general attitude towards words
    • Note down all new words.
    • 'Fish for language' by going through life with an open eye and attentive ear.
    • 'Soliloquize', i.e. translate along in your mind silently
      • as you are doing things (as if you were speaking to an imaginary friend by your side)
      • as you are listening to the news
      • as you watch people doing something
      • as you see any object around
  • Read aloud to yourself from printed text.
    • Increase your exposure to words
    • Television
    • BBC Radio (shortwave world receiver)
    • Books
    • Magazines Newspapers (from UK/USA)
    • English-language films on video
    • Pop songs (wonderful for vocabulary and grammar!)
    • Correspondence with an English native speaker pen-friend

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'The Washing Line' - teaching clothes vocabulary
Ece Sevil, Turkey

This is a good vocabulary activity to use with younger learners

To teach the names of clothes, I have my students cut a page of a newspaper in the shape of a hat, gloves, trousers, etc. Then, using a washing line and clothes pegs, I ask my students to hang their projects on the washing line. My students repeat the names of the clothes after me. After teaching the vocabulary of clothes, I ask them to close their eyes while I hide some of the clothes. A few seconds later I ask them to open their eyes and name the missing clothes and then to find them.

This activity is both very useful and enjoyable for my students.

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