Grab the word

Those who regularly attend conferences know that the positive vibe one experiences there is highly addictive. I suppose that like drugs, the relaxed learning atmosphere affects the central nervous systems of the attendees and causes changes in their behavior and their mindsets. It surely does since grown-up people are willing to sit on the floor and play like kids!


So a few days ago, like every year around this time, I went to the IH Brno conference, where I attended several workshops. As usual, they were all excellent, but there were a couple of things that stood out for me.

In this post, I’d like to share an activity I liked so much that I decided to put it to the test first thing in the morning on Monday. The activity was originally shared by Ben Herbert (in the photo) and I chose the next-to-no-prep version. It comes in handy if you want your students to practice listening as well as vocabulary (and more).

This is what I did with my 14-year-olds:

I brought a few blank sheets of paper and a CD player with me to the lesson.

I quickly cut up the paper into small cards (I did this while students were doing some pair work). I put students into groups of 3-4 and I gave each group a set of the blank cards (around 15, I guess). I chose a text called The Silk Road, which my students had already seen in the previous lesson. As I had found it pretty challenging, I thought it would be a good idea to recycle it once more.

I asked each member of the group to take a pen and then I dictated some target vocabulary from the text, which the students put on the cards. I found this stage really valuable because a few students had trouble writing some of the words correctly, which consequently made them negotiate a bit in groups. Anyway, they cooperated nicely and managed to complete the first task successfully.

The groups were then asked to spread the word cards on their desks face up. I played the recording and each time the students heard one of the words, one of them (the fastest one) grabbed it. The student with the biggest number of cards was the winner. As a follow-up activity, I asked the students to place the words face down in a pile and they took turns to describe the words.

Here are some points I’d like to highlight now.

I remember very clearly that when I did the activity with my Student hat on, I used a lot of prediction (even though we didn’t know the text in advance). In other words, I simply guessed what word will come next (lexical priming comes to mind now). During the activity in the classroom, I observed my students and I noticed that some of them, like me, grabbed the word a millisecond before they actually heard it. This may have been due to the fact that they were already familiar with the text, but as I had tried it out myself before, I can claim that this type of prediction takes place even with unfamiliar texts (of course it does!).

Anyways, I think this activity is perfect for recycling texts your students find boring or long. The gamelike element makes it more exciting and you can bet that your students will fully concentrate on the task. I should mention that in the beginning, my students got too exhilarated and thus a bit loud. However, they soon realized that they must concentrate and be quiet.

There’s one tweak I’d like to include next time – I’d like to include two or three distractors (i.e. words that are NOT in the text) because it’s best if more that one word is left on the desk when the activity is almost over.

Needless to say, you can store the words in a box and use them again for revision or other vocabulary games.

Well, I’m loving this activity! 🙂




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Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages and levels for almost 30 years. You can find out more about me and my passion for teaching here on my blog.

6 thoughts on “Grab the word”

  1. Thank you, dear Hana! You just helped me prepare the warm up exercise for one of my tomorrow’s classes.
    We read quite a long article last week and to come back to it, to revise the vocabulary, I will first dictate words I picked from the article and then make them complete sentences with these words. And then, in Philip Kerr’s footsteps ;-), I’ll do some translation exercise … They have to translate two sentences into French (I chose the sentences according to the grammar and vocabulary relevance). And then, at the end of the lesson (our’s are 1h25) they’ll have to translate the French ones back into English 😉


    Liked by 1 person

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