What’s the category? An ESL speaking, listening and thinking activity

What’s the Category?

  • Focus: speaking, listening and analyzing
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Level: intermediate and up

Main Idea

This pair work activity helps ESL students learn English and improve fluency by requiring students to pronounce well and listen intensely. It’s also an inquiry-based learning exercise because it asks student to focus on and answer one essential question, “How are these things related?”

Activity Set Up


Copy and cut the attached worksheets. The vocabulary is suitable for students intermediate up. The activity works equally for most learners by adding level-appropriate vocabulary and running the activity in the same way.


  1. Divide students into pairs.
  2. Give each student one vocabulary list.
  3. Explain the rules. Partner A reads one line of words. Partner B describes how the words are related and says one word/phrase to describe that category.
  4. Partner A reads the suggested answer on his/her paper. Partner can offer an alternate answer if it is explained logically.
  5.  Partners alternate reading lines of words until finished.

For advanced level students, hand out the vocabulary lists with no suggested answer; this encourages more dialogue between partners.


At the end of the activity, spend five minutes checking whole class comprehension and review hard-to-grasp words on the whiteboard.


Looking for other English teaching ideas?



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


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