Verbal Charades

by Gina

Who said learning cannot be fun? I personally believe that when lessons are taught in a way that the learners enjoy, they are more likely to remember what was taught.

I have been teaching English as a second language to adult learners, and teaching vocabulary without pen and paper always works better, in my opinion. I use vocabulary activities and games quite a lot within the classroom, and I find this not only enhances learning, but the students tend to remember the usage of words within a context more easily.

As a child, I have played 'dumb charades' with my friends, where one team had to enact a word and let the other team guess it. This game is similar except in this case, verbal clues are used, and there is no acting.

Even though the primary objective of Verbal Charades is to teach vocabulary, the game also improves interaction and instills confidence in learners. It is easy to set up, as it requires no resources other than a few chairs.

I have often got my learners to play this game soon after a lesson, to enable them to practice using some of the vocabulary words, phrases or even grammar points taught during the lesson.

Target Group: ESL/children learning English.

Objective: Learn and practice new vocabulary. (ESL skills: Speaking, Listening)

Resources: Chairs, blackboard, and (for the teacher) a list of vocabulary words, phrases, verbs with different tenses, or other suitable lesson-related material.

Duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour, although I have always found that learners just do not want to stop!


1. Split class into teams A and B, grouped separately on either side of classroom.

2. Place a chair with its back towards the blackboard.

3. Start the game by making a student from Team A to sit in the chair facing his or her team members.

4. Write the first word or phrase on the blackboard, so that the seated student cannot see it, but the rest of the class can.

5. Team A members will now try and describe the word/phrase to their seated team member. The seated student should try and guess the word with the verbal clues of his team mates. No acting or giving obvious hints are allowed, or the team will lose that round.

6. The playing team has one minute to guess the word/phrase correctly. If they get it right, then they score a point. If time runs out, or they find the word too difficult, then it is team B?s turn to play.

7. If a seated student guesses the word correctly before the minute is up, then the teacher can quickly write another word for the team to continue playing until the minutes is up. Every word or phrase guessed correctly scores a point for that team.

8. Once the minute is up, a student from team B will sit in the chair and the teacher will continue writing new words from the resource list. Both teams will take turns one after another, giving every team member a chance to sit in the chair.

9. The team with the most points at the end of the lesson wins.

This game allows the teacher to use differentiation material, giving harder words to stronger students, and simpler ones for weaker students.

There is plenty of communication, learners are forced to speak only in English and the students have a lot of fun while learning. The teacher might have to initially describe the game to the class by acting it out with a brighter student.

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