Play a game that builds vocabulary skills and provides a fun break too.
Before the Game
In advance, prepare index cards 4x6 or larger. Neatly write one vocabulary word or term on each card.
Arrange one chair/desk to face the front of the class; it should face the same direction as all the other students' desks. Place a second chair in front of that one so that it faces the first chair and the other students.
Divide the class into two teams of equal size. The game is more fun if each team comprises students of all ability levels.
Choose one volunteer from each team; one of those students will serve as the official Timekeeper and the other will be the Scorekeeper.
Explain the Game
To start the game, call two students from one team to the chairs at the front of the room. One student will be the Clue Giver; that student will sit in the chair facing the front of the classroom. The Clue Receiver will sit in the chair that faces the Clue Giver and the other students.
Have the Timekeeper set the timer for 60 seconds. Then show one of the vocabulary cards to the Clue Giver and the rest of the students in the class; the Clue Receiver is the only person in the class who cannot see the word. The Clue Giver must give clues that will help the Clue Receiver say the word on the card. When the Clue Receiver says the correct word, immediately hold up the next word. Continue play in this manner until the timer goes off to signal the end of 60 seconds.
The Clue Giver may use words, phrases, or sentences. He/she may not
--- use hands or body language,
--- name letters or parts of the word,
--- say any part or form of the word on the card,
--- say "sounds like" or "rhymes with," or
--- use sound effects of any kind.
The Clue Giver may
--- use words or phrases such as "prefix" or "suffix" and
--- say things like "Yes, that's the word, but give it a different ending."
At the end of a round, the two players take their seats and two players from the other team take their places as Clue Giver and Clue Receiver.
It might be good to set some additional ground rules to keep order. Those rules might include
The teacher will retain the position of referee or decision-maker when it comes to tallies. It works very well to take tallies away as consequence for interference. That sends a firm message that "rules are rules."
Keeping ScoreAs the game is played, the Scorekeeper
When preparing the word cards, I usually use very easy words. Nouns are easier to guess than other word types. For older students you might use some more difficult words.
Advise students to try their best, but if they don't know the word the best option might be to call "pass." They lose a tally mark that way, but they go on to the next word.
It helps to model how the Clue Giver can use what the Clue Receiver says as help to guide what to say next.
Advise students that it is wasting time to say "No" in response to each guess by the Clue Receiever.
Advise Clue Receivers that it is a waste of time to delay making a guess. Often, saying whatever comes first to your head gets a right guess quickly.
This game can be an effective vocabulary-teaching tool. You might pause between turns to give students a chance to model "good clues" for words that were passed on during the round. Doing that gives more exposure to the vocabulary; that is especially helpful for students who might not be strong in this area. Sometimes you might even address the Clue Receiver by asking, "What could [Mary] have said to make you say this word?"
If a student with weak vocabulary skills is sitting in the Clue Giver or Clue Receiver seat, you might hand-select easier word cards for that round.
It works well to praise good effort, even when the scoring isn't great. I regularly mix up the cards and recycle "passed" cards.
Arrange teams so when it comes to players getting a second turn in a game they
About halfway through the game, you might change Timekeeper and Scorekeeper to give others a chance to play those roles.
This game works well in a 45-minute teaching period. If students have played many times before, it can be a good 15-minute filler activity.
This game is self-motivating. My students beg to play.
Susan Person, Piqua Junior High School in Piqua, Ohio
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