Many ELT series have unit word lists, either in the student book, or available in the teacher resources. However, few teachers make active use of these unit word lists on a regular basis. In an attempt to address this situation I have produced a set of 25 activities which teachers can easily incorporate into their regular teaching practice.
All of the activities have the following three principles:
- they can work with almost any ELT unit word list;
- apart from the students having access to unit word list itself, they require only basic classroom resources i.e., pencil, paper, board and marker;
- they require no previous preparation from the teacher.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, students need to be looking at the word list to do the activity.
- Which words do you know (before starting the unit)? – Individually, before starting the unit, students put a tick (✔) on the right next to all the words they know.
- What is your favorite word? – Individually, each student identifies their favorite word from the list. Students explain their choice in groups and/or to the whole class.
- Which ones are similar to words in your own language? – In small groups, students look through the unit word list and identify all the words that appear to be similar to words in their own language. These could be cognates or false cognates. The teacher elicits and discusses.
- I don’t like this word because… – Individually, each student identifies a word from the list that they don’t like. Students explain their choice in groups and/or to the whole class.
- Rapid underlining – The teacher chooses between 5 and 10 words from the unit word list and calls these out quite quickly. Individually, students listen, find and underline these words in the list. Students then compare and check that they have found the correct words.
- Find the word in the unit – The teacher chooses a word from the word list and calls this out and the students need to find the word in the unit of the course book. This can be done as a race.
- Which is the most useful word? – Individually, each student identifies from the unit word list the word they think is the most useful. Students explain their choice in groups and/or to the whole class.
- How many of the words are things you can touch? – In small groups, students identify how many of the words in the unit word list are things that can be touched. The teacher elicits and discusses. There might be many different ways to interpret this and can lead to interesting discussion.
- ‘Killing’ vocab items – In small groups, students decide on 3 words they want to eliminate from the unit word list and which will not appear in the next test. The teacher then elicits from each group the 3 words they chose. The teacher writes these words on the board and identifies which 3 words are the most frequently chosen from all the groups. The teacher promised not to include these in the next test. (Dudley, E. & E. Osváth. 2016. Mixed-Ability Teaching. OUP)
- Rapid translation – In pairs, students take it in turns to choose a word from the unit word list. The other student has to try to give the translation in their own language.
- How many have you seen today? – In small groups, students identify how many of the words in the unit word list are things / concepts / actions they have seen today. The teacher elicits and discusses.
- Identify the words from a definition – The teacher chooses about 5 words from the unit word list and then one word at a time tells the students a definition of each word. Individually, students look at the list and underline the words they think the teacher is describing. The teacher elicits, checks and discusses.
- How many have 3 syllables? – In small groups, students identify how many words have 3 syllables. The teacher elicits and discusses.
- Which word is the most difficult to pronounce? – Individually, each student looks at the unit word list and identifies the word they think is the most difficult to pronounce. The teacher elicits and helps students pronounce the words they chose.
- Bingo – Individually, students choose any 5 words from the unit word list and write these on a piece of paper. The teacher reads and crosses off words at random from the list until a student has crossed off all of their 5 words and calls out ‘bingo’.
- How many words have the stress on the second syllable? – In small groups, students look through the unit word list and identify how many words are stressed on the second syllable. The teacher elicits and discusses.
- Which is the most difficult word to spell? – Individually, each student looks at the unit word list and identifies the word they think is the most difficult to spell. The teacher elicits and discusses.
- Test your partner’s spelling – In pairs, one student looks at the unit word list and chooses 5 words and dictates these to the other student (who is not looking at the list). After the dictation of the 5 words the students both look at the list and check the spelling.
- The teacher can’t spell – The teacher choices 5 words and spells these aloud to the student but makes a deliberate spelling mistake in 2 or 3 of the words. Students listen while looking at the word list and try to identify which words were misspelled.
- Quick spelling – In pairs, students take it in turns for one student to choose a word and spell it aloud quickly to other student. The second student tries to say the word before the first student has finished spelling it aloud.
- Which word has the craziest spelling? – Individually, each student decides which word, in their opinion, has the craziest spelling. The teacher elicits the words from the students and the class identifies which word was the most frequently chosen.
- Which are the 3 longest words? – In small groups, students look through the unit word list and identify the 3 words with the most of letters. The teacher elicits and discusses.
- Guess my word – In pairs, students take it in turns to choose a word from the unit word list. The other student needs to ask yes/no questions to work out the word.
- Can you make a sentence using 4 of the words? – Individually, each student makes a sentence using any 4 of the words from the unit word list (combined with other words to create coherent sentences). Students then compare and decide which sentence they like best.
- Which words do you know (after finishing the unit)? – Individually, after finishing the unit, students put a tick (✔) on the left next to all the words they now know. They can compare this with the number of words they knew before starting the unit and see their progress.
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Philip Haines moved to Mexico from England in 1995, and currently works as the Senior Academic Consultant for Oxford University Press Mexico. He has spoken internationally in three continents and nationally in every state in Mexico. Philip is the author/co-author of several ELT series published in Mexico.
8 June 2019 at
Thanks a lot for the great ideas! Keep up the good work-;)
14 June 2019 at
Really useful – Next year I’m teaching 11year olds and I will make use of these ideas for sure
26 June 2019 at
Philip! Muy bien hecho!! (From a Mexican teacher colleague) really clever, interesting and meaningful ideas with vocabulary. Thanks!!
28 June 2019 at
So useful, quick and practical. Thanks!
29 June 2019 at
Thanks a lot!! Very interesting and creative to make students remember vocabulary
1 July 2019 at
Thank you very much! These ideas are very useful!
9 July 2019 at
Region 1 does not have a curriculum book and I think you mention that the words could be found in the course book, Smart Choice, 2nd edition… Where can I get a copy of that course book..???Thanks… love the ideas for my ESL students.. avivavilla
9 July 2019 at
Hi there, thanks for your message! Please visit our Contact Us page (https://elt.oup.com/contactus) where you’ll find details for your local office. You can get in touch with them directly and they’ll be able to assist you in finding the materials you’re looking for. Hope this is helpful! ^Chesca
7 March 2020 at
Thanks a million! I always ignored these lists, but now I have many ideas.
7 August 2020 at
Thank you for sharing these ideas.
8 August 2020 at
Very useful information. Thanks for sharing it.