Archive | March, 2014

Six Great Vocab Games

19 Mar

Here’s six online vocabulary games I’ve been using with my classes recently:

teflgeek word games

Test Your Vocab:  Not – strictly speaking – a game, this website seeks to measure the number of words you know and then tells you the size of your vocabulary.  If the learners are honest and don’t cheat, this could be a useful tool in helping them measure their progress, though presumably the more often they do it, the more familiar they’ll become with the test words.  And of course they could go off and research the test word corpus….  Play the game here: – and thanks to Dave C for the spot!

Free Rice:  matching words to definitions is the name of the game, but with Free Rice, every correct answer donates ten grains of rice to the World Food Program.  This one has been around for a while but is really good for broadening vocabulary out a bit as it’s based around matching synonyms.  Play the game here: – and I think Neil told me about this, but it was a long time ago…

Root Words is an affixation based set of games that is great for First, Advanced and Proficiency students.  Either split the prefix or suffix from the rest of the word, or match them to their meanings (e.g. pre = before).  The use of terminology is a bit confusing (I understand something different by the term “root word”) and it seems aimed at native speakers, so do check the game out yourself before asking your classes to play!  The website has a lot of other vocabulary based games available, but I’ve not experiemented with any of the others yet.  Play the game here:

Knoword gives you the definition and asks you to type in the target word.  A really nice spin on the traditional meaning matching task – answer as many as you can before the time runs out!  Can be quite challenging – probably intermediate levels and above?  Play the game here: – and thanks to Jenny for demonstrating it in her recent seminar!

Whack Attack lets you choose between English, Science or Maths options (good for the CLIL crowd!), you then choose from multiple choice questions be whacking the correctly coloured characters parading across the screen.  The English questions are mostly about the language (e.g. choose between metaphor, simile or idiom) and aimed at UK students rather than being about vocabulary per se.  Try it and see:  Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for this one.

Only Connect is part vocabulary game, part general knowledge and part sheer torment that is based on a BBC gameshow.  I can just about manage one “wall” in every ten.  You get presented with sixteen words and you have to put them into the correct four categories.  There’s a screenshot below so you can see what I mean.  I think it depends on the individual, some of my students loved it and kept at it even though it was stupidly difficult – others got bored quite rapidly.  What I think would work quite well is that after the students have played it online and understand how it works, they can create their own versions using chopped up bits of paper and can then challenge each other.  This would be perfect for work with collocations, phrasal verbs or topic themed vocabulary revision.  You can try and play the original game here:  And thanks again to Larry Ferlazzo.

Only Connect

Screenshot of the answers to an “Only Connect” wall.

Why Brain Gym is a load of rubbish

14 Mar

I can’t claim any credit for this – the original article is by the excellent debunker and Guardian journalist Ben Goldacre:

Banging your head repeatedly against the brick wall of teachers’ stupidity helps increase blood flow to your frontal lobes

February 16th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad sciencebrain gym | 105 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday February 16 2008

As time passes, largely against my will, I have become a student of nonsense. More importantly, I’ve become interested in why some forms of nonsense can lucratively persist, where others quietly fail. Brain Gym continues to produce more email than almost any other subject: usually it is from teachers, eager to defend the practice, but also from children, astonished at the sheer stupidity of what they are being taught.


To read more, either click the title above or follow the link here:

It’s well worth reading.  Thanks to Paul Read for the spot!