Predicting language for context

This simple activity encourages students to predict language for situations before they listen. 

Gareth Rees

Its main use is in listening skills development. It is closely related to question styles often found in EFL exams, but could be easily adapted for other listening work.


  • Choose a lexical set, such as feelings, places, jobs, etc. For example:
    • feelings: happy, excited, sad, disappointed, bored, fascinated
    • places: a bank, a petrol station, a school, a hospital
    • jobs: a doctor, a shop assistant, a bus conductor, an office worker
  • Write each word on a separate piece of paper. You need one set per small group of students.


  • Place the students in small groups and put the words face down in a pile on their table.
  • One student in the group takes a piece of paper and says something that would be spoken in the context given by the word. For example, if a student picks the word doctor, they can say I'll give you these, and you need to take them twice a day, before meals.
  • The other students have to guess the word. The fastest student to say it wins a point.
  • Continue with students taking turns to take a piece of paper and make a sentence.

You could use more than one context at a time, but be sure the students know which lexical sets are in use.

Once students are used to this kind of activity, you should find that pre-listening tasks such as 'Predicting the language used in an argument between a parent and a teenager' are more fruitful.

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