Warmer: Don’t make me say it!

12 Jan

This is a vocabulary revision activity that I used as a warmer with my classes last week – from intermediate to proficiency.

I went back through the previous couple of units of the coursebook and chose 12 items (words, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions, short phrases) that I thought the class would probably know and I divided those items into two sets of six, trying to make sure there was an even balance of “difficulty” between the two lists.

I put these on a handout as follows:

IMG_20150109_153542056 (2)

The instructions are as follows:

  • Have a conversation with your partner. You can talk about any topics.
  • During the conversation, try to get them to use the words or expressions in the list below.
  • You get one point for every word they use.
  • You lose one point for every word on their list that you say.

What happened:

Predictably, very few of the words on the lists actually got said.  That doesn’t really matter because, as a vocabulary revision activity, what’s happening is the students are creating contexts for the use of the vocabulary, so even if student B doesn’t say student A’s word, they have a pretty good idea of what it is.  However, in hindsight, (and the next time I play this) I’m going to take out the rule about losing a point – it just makes everyone unnecessarily uncooperative.  That said, everyone had a lot of fun.

I also tried this with a group and let them choose their own words from previous units of the book.  This backfired spectacularly as (a) it took far too long, (b) they chose words they didn’t know the meaning of.

It needs a bit of tweaking, but I like this activity because of the way the students are creating these contexts for the items and because it’s prompting them to think about how the items are used – yes, it’s completely artificial, but it also seems to be a lot of fun, which is what you want in a warmer.

Do try it out and let me know how it goes for you – and any changes you made!

Have fun!

(Acknowledgement – I have a vague memory or being shown this or something similar in an input session at IH Katowice about ten years ago, so apologies if this is someone else’s idea!  If so it was probably Richard Venner as it seems like the sort of thing he would do!)


2 Responses to “Warmer: Don’t make me say it!”

  1. eltecuador Thursday 15 January 2015 at 17:44 #

    Hi David,

    I tried this last night with my class as a warmer reviewing/recycling lexis from a previous class and generally speaking it went quite well. I asked the students what they thought of it and they said that they enjoyed it as it really pushed them to think up appropriate contexts for the word to emerge. They said it was hard but they liked it for that reason!

    I think this activity lends itself well to ‘interview style’ Q&Aing since this is what my students were naturally doing occasionally prompting “ok, now your turn” to each other. You could get your students to pretend they are someone famous or depending on the words you choose you could give them roles, e.g. crime vocab –> police officers, words connected to health –> doctor/patient etc.

    Similar to this, you could try a variation of ‘word sneak’ on Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show”. Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFpdALrk3mo
    This could be fun as a whole class activity.



  1. Warmer / Filler: What are my words? | teflgeek - Tuesday 20 January 2015

    […] preparation on the part of the teacher.  I’ve been using it with classes that found “Don’t make me say it!” too difficult or time consuming.  It’s certainly easier for lower […]

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