10 ideas for vocabulary revision

Effective language learning means frequent revisions. But students don’t always have time (or motivation) to revise vocabulary on their own at home. So it’s often up to us, teachers, to help make it stick. But don’t worry, vocabulary revision doesn’t always mean spending hours preparing fun games. In this article we have 10 ideas for quick and very effective vocabulary revision activities. They all require very little or no prep.

#1 Paper ball fight

Give each student a piece of paper. They write a word or a phrase on it. Next, they scrunch it up, close their eyes and throw it in front of them towards other students. Now, each student picks up a ball which is the closest to them. They open it up and explain the meaning of the word or phrase that’s on it. They can also make a sentence with it.

#2 Noughts & crosses

Before the lesson, prepare a few diagrams for a noughts and crosses game. Fill each space with a different word or a short phrase you want to revise. Students work in pairs. Each pair gets one diagram. They play noughts and crosses, but before marking their space they have to explain the meaning of the word that’s on it. 

#3 Use them in a conversation

Give each student a list of words that you want to revise. They will work in pairs, so give a different list to each student in a pair. Next, ask them to have a conversation. They have to incorporate the words from their list into the conversation, as naturally as they can. As a follow-up, they can try to guess what words were on the other student’s list.

#4 Re-create the questions

Write a few questions with words or phrases you want to revise. Students answer these questions. Next, cover the questions and leave only the answers visible. Students recreate the questions using the target words and phrases. 

#5 10 questions

Each student gets a word or phrase you want to revise. Students work in pairs and don’t show each other their words. They have to find out what it is by asking each other 10 Yes/No questions. For example: Is it a noun? Is it positive? Can I use it to describe a person?  

#6 Guess what I’m describing

Students work in pairs. Give each pair a list of words or phrases you want to revise. Each student picks a word from the list and describes it to their partner. The other student has to guess which word from the list it is.

#7 Make connections

On the board write a few pairs of unrelated words or phrases you want to revise. The students try to make connections between them. For example, delayed – pastry. For this pair of words, the students could make a sentence: “My train was delayed and I didn’t have enough time to get a pastry for my lunch.”

#8 Match

Before the lesson, prepare some cut-outs with words and phrases you want to revise. Distribute them among the students together with some extra blank pieces of paper. They write definitions or opposites of the words they were given. Next, they swap with the other students who have to match them correctly. 

#9 Recall the details

Write a few words and phrases from the previous lesson(s). Students try to recall some details of when they were introduced: where they come from (listening, reading, maybe another student asked about it, etc) and what the context was. This is a great activity for revising vocabulary from listening or reading exercises.

#10 Categories

On the board write down some categories. They could be parts of speech, like nouns, adjectives, verbs or topic categories. They could also be something more detailed, for example, devices that require batteries or things with wheels, etc. It all depends on what topic(s) you want to revise. Write your chosen categories on the board and ask students to write as many words as they can for each category. They can do it in groups or pairs. You can give them a time limit or word limit for an extra challenge

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