The Vocabulary Box: 6 easy activities for revising language

On many courses, there is plenty of vocabulary and technical terminology that students need to learn. The vocabulary box is a great way to incorporate regular recycling of this language with very little effort on the teacher’s part. The teacher needs to provide a box to keep the words in – I use a shoe box covered in colourful paper. At the end of each lesson, get students to write out the new vocabulary items on slips of paper and store them in the box. This box can be used for quick recapping at the beginning or end of the lesson and builds up a resource for revision exercises and differentiated practice activities for early finishers.

Quick recap exercise (differentiated version)

  • Strong students: in pairs they take 10 words from the box. One student defines the word without saying it and the other one has to guess the word being described.
  • Weaker students: in pairs they take 8 words from the box. One student shows the other a word and asks him/her to explain/draw/mime the word.

2.Walls exercise

  • Put 10 or 12 words from the box on the walls and students can walk round in pairs trying to explain the words and make an example sentence or give a definition.

In feedback the teacher can explain words and get the students to guess which word is being described. This can be done as a competitive team game/quiz too.

  • For spelling practice, the words can be correctly spelt or misspelt and students have to work in pairs to decide which ones are correct and correct the wrong ones. They can then make example sentences or definitions with them verbally or on paper.

3.Word Grab

  • Students work in groups of three, with a lot of the words laid out on the table face up. One student explains a word and the other two compete to grab the right word. The student with the most words at the end is the winner. The piles of words can stay on each table and the students can move from table to table until all piles have been covered.

4.Noughts and Crosses

  • Grid on the board and class in two teams. For each numbered space the teacher pulls a word from the box and gets the relevant team to explain it and give an example sentence or definition. If the student/team can do this correctly, they can put a cross or nought in that square. This can then be played in groups with a student acting as the teacher in each case.


  • Pairs or groups take a pile of words from the box. They then group them by agreed criteria, for example:
    1. noun/verb/adjective etc
    2. words I know and words I don’t understand
    3. words that are similar in my language and words that are different
    4. words that relate to certain topics. This activity works well if the student organises the words then asks their partner to guess how they have been grouped.

6.Envelope race

  • Students are in groups of 3 with an envelope holding 8 words. The groups compete to explain the words to their team without using them directly, passing the envelope onto a teammate each time a word has been guessed. The quickest team to finish the envelope wins and then the envelopes are switched over and the activity begins again. Best done with background music to avoid teams cheating by listening to each other and it can be noisy and competitive! Group composition by mixed ability works best for this one.
This entry was posted in CPD for Teachers, Differentiation, Teaching and learning, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Vocabulary Box: 6 easy activities for revising language

  1. Reblogged this on joannemilesconsulting and commented:

    As we are in revision season now, these activities could be a good way to help students consolidate their understanding and use of key terminology.

  2. Holly Sabin says:

    I love this idea – English teacher so it feels extremely useful! I shall be making one over the summer.

    The Kagan style activity Quiz-Quiz-Trade would work well too with these cards: students have one card each, quiz each other in pairs on their word, exchange cards (trade) and move round room to find another partner to quiz again. Can either be on spelling it or definitions, examples, etc. For differentiation, encourage students to decide when creating it if it’s higher, middle or easier and use different colour cards accordingly. Students can then deliberately choose (or avoid!) certain colours.

  3. Pingback: FE feedback: My top 5 points – nhawkinsblog

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