Vocabulary building games and tests

Vocabulary building games and tests

Vocabulary is the most important building block in English. Without grammar, we can still make ourselves understood but without vocabulary that can be very difficult. Unfortunately for learners, there are so many words that need to be learnt that it can seem like an impossible task. However, with the help of games and activities we can ensure our learners are able to learn all the vocabulary they need to communicate effectively in English.

There are numerous games that can be played in the classroom which will re-inforce the vocabulary learnt in the classroom. These games bring an element of repetition into learning, which is known to promote vocabulary learning. Plus, it will bring fun and enjoyment into the classroom which will help maintain motivation and interest.

Some very simple games to play are hangman, scrabble, memory game, guessing games and charades. All of these games require learner participation and can be played in small groups or as the whole class, depending on the particular teaching situation.

Another great game is categories. Teenagers especially love this game. Divide the class into groups. Each group should have a piece of paper, divided into columns. Each column has a category, such as food, drink, place, occupation – anything, as long as every group has the same categories. The teacher chooses a letter and the learners must think of a word for each category that begins with that letter. When the first group is finished, the class compares answers, eliminating any answers that are the same between groups. If a group has a unique word, the teacher must make sure their spelling is correct before awarding them a point. At the end of the game the group with the most points wins.

Besides games, another way to test learners’ vocabulary is, of course, through the use of tests. Quick, regular, unplanned tests are best otherwise learners will learn only those words you set them without paying attention to any others. Once a week or so, if you have ten minutes spare in a lesson, using visuals or translation test your learners on ten vocabulary words related to the work done that week. Letting them mark each other’s work immediately will help them identify their errors and realise their mistakes.

Learning vocabulary can seem like a mammoth task but if we make use of games in the classroom it will encourage our learners to learn new vocabulary while having fun. Including an element of competition into the games is always a good idea as it will only add to the motivation to do well.