Quick Vocabulary Games


Managing the classroom pace is a skill that good teachers have mastered. Pace is not just about finishing the lesson on time; it’s about managing the flow of information and activities to maximize student interest over the long run.

I’ve learned over the years that student interest can be sustained when lessons are broken up. There is a change in pace. Often, short vocabulary games provide just the right amount of separation and intellectual fresh air. To that end, here are three quick vocabulary activities which provide a measure of good effect in terms of student learning and enthusiasm.

1 SORT AND SOUND (10 minutes max)

The task is easy enough to explain: look at the words on the sheet and divide them into three groups.

I usually give students a few minutes to struggle with the problem and provide a series of hints starting with the name of the exercise. Later, I ask the students to look at the words and describe any patterns. By now, some students understand that the groupings are based on the final S sound of each word.

2 FIND THE ADJECTIVES (10 minutes max)

Teachers who regularly run reading fluency activities in their high intermediate or advanced classes might be interested in this timed activity. The task is easy: read the words on the question sheet and find the adjectives in three minutes. The answer key below has 20 adjectives.

3 WORDS WITH PH (10 minutes max)

This simple activity works well when you need to fill a few minutes. Point out that some words in English have an F sound and PH spelling. Phone, for example.

Pair up students and give them a challenge. Write down as many words as possible with PH spelling and F sound in two minutes. After two minutes, quickly compile a list on the board. Point out that your list has 30 answers (excluding plurals).

For maximum effectiveness, do a short one-minute review of these words in a future class.



1. abnormal adjective
2. accept verb
3. because conjunction
4. biography noun
5. breath noun
6. cartel noun
7. confidant noun
8. creature noun
9. dabble verb
10. daze verb
11. defective adjective
12. difficult adjective
13. duel noun
14. early adverb
15. eventually adverb
16. finely adverb
17. frequent adjective
18. furthermore adverb
19. gab verb
20. handsome adjective
21. healthy adjective
22. human adjective
23. illusion noun
24. intense adjective
25. lessen verb
26. narrow adjective
27. open adjective
28. plain adjective
29. poetry noun
30. quake noun/verb
31. questions noun
32. rational adjective
33. really adverb
34. rough adjective
35. serial adjective
36. serious adjective
37. shareware noun
38. shear verb
39. slowly adverb
40. stiff adjective
41. sudden adjective
42. teak noun
43. vain adjective
44. which adjective/pronoun
45. white adjective



  1. alphabet
  2. autograph
  3. dolphin
  4. elephant
  5. emphasis
  6. geography
  7. graph
  8. graphic
  9. hyphen
  10. nephew
  11. microphone
  12. orphan
  13. orphanage
  14. pamphlet
  15. phantom
  16. pharmacy
  17. phase
  18. philosophy
  19. phobia
  20. phone
  21. phonics
  22. photo
  23. photograph
  24. photography
  25. phrase
  26. physical
  27. telephone
  28. trophy
  29. typhoon
  30. xylophone


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Save time. Teach well.

Cut your lesson prep time with this 240-page collection of ESL resources that stimulate language learning and critical thinking: awesome pair work speaking activities, logic puzzles, trivia, word games and much more. Simplify your lesson planning because teaching should be a joy, not a chore.


The image in this post comes from Procsilas Moscas and its use complies with the owner’s creative commons licensing terms.

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