This is an activity for intermediate level and above that encourages the students to use their creativity and imagination as well as the feeling they have for the language to think up definitions for words.

Author: 
Keneward Hill

It is not so important that the students learn the words as they are not commonly used, but to express themselves in a convincing way when they are explaining their definitions. It is based on the old TV game.

Preparation

A number of cards with the definitions of words on them.

Procedure

I divide the class up into pairs or groups of three. I write a word that nobody could be expected to know. One word I often choose is "otiose", which means "useless, or serving absolutely no purpose".

I explain the word in three ways, for example saying that it means "very smelly" (another adjective) and "a tool for making potato rings" (a noun). The students try to guess the right meaning.

After this example I give words to the groups on small pieces of paper, with definitions that are slightly simplified, not just dictionary definitions. The groups then think of two false meanings for their words. I draw a table on the board with the names of the groups at the top and down the side and keep score and record the genuine definitions.

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Comments

I have used this activity quite a few times simply because not only it teaches vocabulary, but it also makes the students think. But every time I did it, the students had difficulty making up false definitions, especially in a way that would 'bluff' the other student. They lacked imagination.So, as a warm up and an example, I usually give them a quiz worksheet with 5 unknown words and true and false definitions. They try to guess the real meanings and get points for each correct guess. Then, when I give them the words for which they have to make up false definitions, I ask them not to read the true definitions but to think of what the word 'sounds like' to them and what it 'sounds to mean'. For example, I had a student write "this is a device used to measure the pressure between the lips after an operation on them" for a "kissogram".

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