Spot the vocabulary

This is a visual activity which helps make the process of recalling vocabulary motivating and memorable. My students enjoy the 'suspense' aspect at the start, which really gets them involved.

Marta Joyce Sabbadini

I find this short activity works well particularly with lower levels, for vocabulary that has been studied thematically. It can be used at any point in a lesson, as a warmer, filler or lead-in.

You will need a picture (this could be an illustration from a book, from the web, a photo, even your own sketch!) that depicts 'things' on a particular theme which your students have recently learnt, e.g. furniture, food, in the classroom. Prepare one copy per group of two or more students. You can download some examples below (all images are copyright Chris Tribble, King's College, London University and used with his kind permission). 


  • Hold up the picture so that the students cannot see it, and start building up interest by saying, 'Hey, this picture is interesting, isn't it? Can't you see it?'
  • Ask students if they want to see the picture, turning it round for them to see just for a couple of seconds. I find my students are really eager to see more of it!
  • Allow them see it for a bit longer, walking round the class for each person to see the picture for a few seconds.
  • After this first 'suspense' stage, hand out a copy of the picture to students in pairs/small groups. Tell them they have two minutes to identify and remember as many things as they can see from the picture, without writing anything down! (Of course you may find your students trying to 'cheat' by writing things down - which of course is fine, as this is likely to help their learning, without their realising!)
  • Once the time is up, take back the pictures and ask students to write a list of everything they can remember.
  • Pin up a few copies of the picture around the class for students to go up and check their list.
  • Whole-class feedback can then involve one of various possibilities, depending on the students' mood by this stage and how much more exposure to the vocabulary items the teacher feels they need:
    • Students call out the items and the teacher writes them up.
    • The group with the most items reads out their list for the others to check against.
    • Each group contributes one item/ the item that forms the longest word on their list. They can come up to the board to write this.
    • The teacher and/or students pick out any items that they found difficult to remember/pronounce and try to improve their knowledge of these items.
  • A variation of this adds a 'grammar' component to the listing of the vocabulary items. Following a focus on 'There is / There are', for example, students can write their list under these two headings. Other grammar features that work well are headings for singular/plural, countable/uncountable or adjectives.
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Submitted by Tariq Mahmood elt on Wed, 08/03/2016 - 19:30

It'd be a great help. I'll use it soon after these Summer vacations in primary sections especially. Thanks

Submitted by Ruhiyye on Sat, 01/07/2012 - 20:28

I'm going to use this activity as an ice-breaker with my sixth graders, 

Thank you.


Submitted by LjupkaV on Mon, 04/12/2010 - 14:04

Very creative  I must say, I m working with some really hyper kids in one classroom, this might be helpful to try it.

Submitted by Anna Zmudka on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 09:10

In reply to by LjupkaV

u should see my students secretly making notes!

Submitted by ervin on Sat, 12/18/2010 - 10:37

In reply to by Anna Zmudka

Very interesting the way how the vocabulary is processed during the teaching class.


Submitted by simonihao on Wed, 11/11/2009 - 12:50

I am doing an research on count/mass nouns distinction and find your activity is of great help,thanks.

Submitted by Sukoon on Sat, 11/07/2009 - 11:33

Great fun way to revise vocabulary. This activity, I think it will help the information be in students mind for a longer time. Thank you so much for sharing.

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