This activity is designed to be used as a vocabulary review or test of existing knowledge of the learners' vocabulary. It generates lots of words and is a lot of fun. The categories can be changed to suit the level and learner.

Derek Spafford


Make a list of ten words for a number of categories depending on your learners' needs (do this alphabetically as it will be easier to scan for answers if using procedure 2). There is an example worksheet attached with categories you could choose. Print out answer sheets for learners in groups.

Procedure 1

  • Put the learners into teams depending on the class size and distribute the answer sheets.
  • Explain to the learners that they have one minute to write down as many words as they can think of that relate to the category that you choose. They will receive one point for every word that is the same as yours and a bonus of five if they get all ten.
  • Tell students the name of the first category and set a time limit. After the time is up tell the learners to stop.
  • Ask the learners to swap their answer sheets so they can check each other's answers.
  • Read out your answers, while you do this learners check each other's answers and give the sheets back to the other groups. You can be as strict as you like on the spelling.
  • Ask students to tell you the scores and keep a record of these on the board.
  • Repeat the procedure with different categories.

Alternative procedure

  • Put the learners into teams depending on class size.
  • Explain to the learners that they have one minute to think of and say words related to a category that you choose.
  • The teacher then selects a category and tells group A his or her choice.
  • Group A then have one minute to shout out the words you have written on the list.
  • The teacher says yes or no depending on the whether they are on the list or not.
  • Teams score one point for each word and a bonus of five if they get all ten.
  • Select a different category for teams B and C and repeat.
  • You could use the opposing teams as timekeepers and scorekeepers.

When the activities are over you could analyse the results and decide what lexical areas learners are strong in and what may need more work. You could also deal with any pronunciation areas that need work and any unfamiliar language that learners have been exposed to.

This activity was first published in 2008



As simple as it may sound, this activity proved a HUGE SUCCESS with my students when i did it with them some time ago. There were about 40 students (I had to take on two classes at the same time to cover for an absent teacher) and I was at a loss what to do with them, so i remembered "categories". I didn't have any worksheets, but it was not a problem as the students had their notebooks. Anyway, we played in the same way as explained above, except that I didn't think of giving them the bonus points!The thing that is not mentioned in the description of this activity is whether only one student in a team does the writing on the worksheet, or all of them take turns, or each student has a worksheet to write on. The last option is the best, I think, because it eliminates the possibility of having any passive students and it also allows them to practise spelling.

I think this is a very great idea. You have suggested a technique which combined fun with education, this kind of stuff is certainly more interesting than plain old teaching. A great way to improve vocabulary.

What I like about this game is the team work element. Players are able to self reinforced by playing as a team and then also reviewing the words for opponent's team. In doing so, they become engaged and then remember the words better. The association of words with category also force a level of thinking and increase the link and thereby enhancing the capacity to remember through association as well. Great game.

Thanks for all your comments. I'm really pleased that you've found the activity useful. When I do it I normally assign one person to write and the rest give their ideas to him or her. I don't see why you couldn't change this to suit your learners needs and to decrease the risk of passive students. Go for it, see what happens and let us know!All the best Del

Categories are always fun way of teaching language. I have tried in my classes different types of categories . My students like clapping categories very much. This is also good category activity.  How could you do checking  system if your students all assigned to write down the words?

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