Vocabulary Revision Game: Pointless

13 Sep

While visiting the UK over the summer, I was introduced to a relatively new BBC Game show – “Pointless“, in which contestants try to score as few points as possible.  Or as the BBC phrase it:  “Quiz in which contestants try to score as few points as possible by plumbing the depths of their general knowledge to come up with the answers no-one else can think of.”

Obviously, this game has great teaching possibilities….!

The immediate thought was that this principle would make a great vocabulary revision and extension game.

The learners can work together in pairs (or small groups) and brainstorm five vocabulary items connected to a topic (e.g. animals).

The teacher also writes down (or has pre-selected) five vocab items in the target area.

Scoring can either be complicated or simple….  in the simple version, learners score 0 (zero) points for every word they choose that nobody else thinks of.  They score five points for every word that someone else in the room has come up with.

In the complicated version, they score five points for every word they think of that the teacher thinks of, PLUS the same number of points as additional people have their word.  So:  Group A thinks of the word “tiger”.  Groups B & C also have the word, so Group A get 2 points.  If Groups B & C AND the teacher have the word tiger, Group A get 7 points.

In either scenario, the aim is to score as few points as possible.  Thus (hopefully) encouraging learners to think of more esoteric vocabulary and thus extending their range and offering up the opportunity for peer teaching.

This game could make a great way finishing up a vocabulary based lesson – or could be a nice revision style warmer.

To take a look at how it’s done properly (BBC style with high end production values) – take a look at the you tube video below:


6 Responses to “Vocabulary Revision Game: Pointless”

  1. annforeman Tuesday 13 September 2011 at 17:13 #

    Hi David,

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check for comments.

    Please feel free to post there whenever you have anything you’d like to share.



  2. Fernando Díez Gallego Tuesday 13 September 2011 at 18:26 #

    I like the game. Useful for my students to screw up their brains. Different from some of the conventional games I had in mind. Better said, now I’m recalling this very summer I implemented something similar. Great.
    Thank you, David.
    Nice to have had a granded at your site.
    Fernando Díez Gallego
    (You can see about me in TeacherLingo EFL/ESL)
    Teacher trainer
    Granada, Spain
    I follow

    • David Petrie Wednesday 14 September 2011 at 01:55 #

      Hi Fernando,
      It’s nice to see you again! (You said some nice things about “Should & Shouldn’t a couple of months ago! – I always remember the compliments!)
      Glad you like the game – just a different twist on an old favourite!
      You have a lot of great ideas on your blog: http://fernandoexperiences.blogspot.com/
      I really like the humanistic way you approach things.
      Thanks for visiting,


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