Reviewing Vocabulary


After a long hiatus – due mostly to problems with my internet connection at home – here I am again. I’ve been wanting to share these activities for some weeks now, ever since I did them in class, so what better time than now? There’s nothing much to them and probably many of you may have done them. But assuming other teachers are like me, and sometimes forget things and activities, the mind just goes blank once in a while (no matter how big our “pool” of ideas or experience may be), it doesn’t hurt putting these ideas out there and maybe helping someone who’s having a “teacher’s block” ;-).


As language teachers we all know that presenting words to a student is not enough to ensure he is going to learn that vocabulary. We have to help them see the context, use the vocabulary, show it again and again. These activities were used just for that – for bringing back vocabulary we’ve seen this semester and forcing students to fish them out of their brains.


Idea #1 – Reviewing parts of the body

My Teen 3 groups (made of 12 and 13-years olds) have seen parts of the body and we were going to have a lesson that they’d need that vocabulary again. Since I knew they had seen it before (more than once in previous semesters) I thought it’d be better to draw the vocabulary from them instead of proposing the vocabulary to be reviewed – this way I wouldn’t be limiting my students to the words I considered necessary revising. So I took blank slips of paper to class, split the students into groups of 3, gave each group a roll of masking tape, a marker and a handful of slips. Then I told them to pick one of the students to be the “model” and that they would have 5 minutes to write as many parts of the body as they could remember and stick them on the respective place on the model.



The models and their slips


They had a lot of fun during the activity – and we’re talking about students who have class at 8AM! It was the first activity of the class, to get them moving and out of their sleepiness. When time was up, the 4 models were lined in the front of the class and we checked the slips/parts of the body in each of them, checking if they were in the right place. With names that I know (or that I saw) the students had trouble with the spelling I would ask out loud how it was spelled and asked a student to write it on the board. The idea of letting them tell me the words they already knew worked out well. There were more parts of the body than I would have proposed, students learned words from their peers and there was an unexpected teaching opportunity. One of the groups had written “ass” and “boobs” (you never know what these kids are going to pick up from movies and songs these days!) on their slips – they had placed them correctly too ;-)! But I took that as an opportunity to say that yes, those were words used to describe those body parts but there were more appropriate ones. Surprisingly (??!!?) when elicited, nobody was able to tell me the appropriate way of calling those parts, so I taught them and wrote them on the board (bottom/butt and breasts – also eliciting the difference between breasts and chest).



Idea #2 – Parts of the Body part II


As a follow-up to the previous activity, the next class we had I started with another game. I took the words they had come up with on the first class, wrote them in bigger slips and stuck them on the board. I split the students into 3 groups, asked them to stand in 3 separate lines. I said out loud the use of a specific part of the body (i.e. We use this to taste, This is where thinking takes place, etc) and the first student in each line had to run and grab the slip that had the answer/correct body part written in it. Again, very energetic activity, good to wake them up for class and different from the usual “match-the-pictures-to-the-words”.



Idea #3 – Reviewing Vocabulary Seen in Texts


With my more advanced groups we use a lot of texts in class, all of them authentic texts (though after the Reading Challenge Course Marisa Constantinides gave I now know the activities in their great majority are not authentic!), and most times there’s a vocabulary activity. But we usually never see or work with those words again after the activity is done… So I started thinking what was the point? So I decided to review the vocabulary from the texts we had read after each unit is over. I have approached this in two different ways. For both activities I went back to the texts and made a list of the words. Then I wrote the words onto slips of paper and stuck them to the board (just like on the follow-up activity I described above).




Ready. Set. Go!


With one of the groups I gave them the definition of the word and they had to run and grab the correct slip. With the other I read a sentence using the words saying “bleeeep” where the word was – and then they had to run and grab the correct slip. In both cases I put a lot more words on the board than I asked for.



Students running for the words...



Idea #4 – Reviewing Vocabulary Seen in Texts part II


As a follow up to the previous activity, a couple of classes later I did another warm up with this vocabulary. I divided the class into 2 groups (there are not many students in these groups) and brought to class a powerpoint (you can see it here Warmer VOCAB HINT 2 March) where each group took turns in choosing a number from the first slide. Each number took them to a slide with a sentence using one of the words from the list/reviewed in the class I described above. This word was highlighted in the sentence. The group then had to propose a synonym, a word to substitute the highlighted word without changing the content/message of the sentence. After the group said the synonym the other group had to say whether it was adequate or not, and if not, which word would do the job. They really liked the activity and I think it was a good way to help them fix the vocabulary.



I plan on recalling vocabulary seen more often, more consistently from now on. And I hope you enjoyed these activities. If you think of any variation for them, please share! πŸ™‚

37 comments on “Reviewing Vocabulary

  1. I love the way you got the pupils actively using the vocabulary! Being physically active encourages memory. Of course, so does having fun!

  2. Adam says:

    Very nice techniques that do the all important thing of recycling what’s been done recently in class. Thank you for the excellent ideas, Cecilia.

  3. seburnt says:

    I’d say the simple, yet effective pin-the-body-part-on-the-body-part is my favourite. While reading about it, I was wondering if any inappropriateness would ensue. Luckily no one was offended by the ‘touching’. Haha.

    I definitely know that I could increase the frequency at which I have students physically get out of their seats. I’m sometimes restricted by my preferences.

    • I think we all sometimes fall into sticking to our preferences Tyson πŸ™‚ We are human after all (despite many things that point to the contrary)… To avoid the inappropriate touching I always tell the models to try to stick the clips to their own body (unless physically impossible). With teenagers in this country you can never be too careful… hormones raging! πŸ˜‰

  4. Tefl Jobs says:

    I really liked your body parts activity idea, and that was very daring with a class of teens!


  5. kylieliz says:

    I’ve done the pin the body parts on before and loved it! Even my students who usually hate to get up and participate enjoyed it, and it is a good way to get them collaboratively reviewing vocabulary. Thanks for sharing! I liked your other ideas of reviewing vocabulary from texts as well . . . might have to give that a shot this week!

  6. Anna says:

    Really like these ideas Cecelia especially the interactive way of recycling vocab they’ve encountered before… if I get time I’m going to try it tomorrow in class… I’ll report back on how it goes! πŸ™‚

    Thank you!

    • Glad you liked it Anna! Don’t forget to come back and say how it went! πŸ™‚

      • Anna says:

        Hey resounding success! I set it up as a race… with two teams. Recent vocab words on post-its on the board as you described. Then I read the definition and they raced each other to the board to grab the word before going to the back of the line. The team with the most words won. You have never seen a group of Muslim ladies so animated and competitive.. the whiteboard almost went over at one point! Lots of fun had by all… so thanks again … definitely an idea I’ll be using many more times πŸ˜€

      • Fantastic!!!! So happy to hear it worked well and they had fun! Thanks for the feedback Anna πŸ™‚ It means a lot to me.

  7. Vladka says:

    Dear Ceci!

    What an amazing post! Thank you! I absolutely love this kind of activities!
    I remember doing something similar with body parts. It’s such fun! And it does make a difference to lesson…when students are not only sitting;

    I like the saying ” when the bum is numb, the brain is the same” Too true :-))


    • Love the saying Vladka! I just hope it doesn’t mean that’s not because that’s where the brain is πŸ˜› I find it especially true with teenagers (they have such “dragging their feet” attitude many times!) and even more early in the morning!

  8. Love the energy in the photos. πŸ™‚ I’ve done similar activities with body parts and it’s a blast!

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Tina Aharoni says:

    Hi there Cecilia. Although I am not teaching at schools (private tutor), your ideas are great for using in groups. I will try them out. For learning new vocabulary I encourage them to stick pieces of paper with the words and meaning on their computer, on the wall next to their bed, on the fridge or wherever they visit many times during the day in their own home. (some have told me they stick them on the wall in the toilet. lol). This way they really learn those words just from seeing them so many times in the day.. If anyone wants to add me as a friend I can be found on Facebook… great to share our teaching experiences!!Enjoy

    • Great idea Tina! I can’t really see many of my students doing that, but maybe I could adjust the idea and stick those pieces of paper around the classroom… I’ll try that πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing (and for the feedback!)!

  10. Ann says:

    Fun, imaginative ideas we can all benefit from – have linked to your post on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check for comments there.

    Share with us whenever you want!



    • Thanks Ann! I really appreciate you sharing my post on FB πŸ™‚

      • Ann says:

        Tried out your body parts activity with post-its yesterday with a normally pretty serious class. It was a scream and they loved it! On the surge of the moment we went on to talk about body idioms (they’re quite an advanced class), which went much better than usual given the fact that everybody was really engaged.

        Thank you again for the great idea.

        Best, Ann

      • You’re welcome Ann. I’m happy this post and the ideas I shared were apparently well (and successfully) used around the world πŸ™‚ Sharing truly is one of the best things about being a teacher in the blogosphere. Thank you for taking the time to give me the feedback.

        Sunny regards,


  11. David Warr says:

    Had been wondering where you were..!
    How do you feel about writing words in small letters rather than capitals? This way, words have shapes, with sticks and tails, whereas just using capitals removes that, and they all just become uniform bricks. Then you can draw around the words, leaving just the shape on the board, and learners should still be able to remember them, and perhaps write/stick them back in later.

    • I hadn’t thought of that David! But you’re right… lowercase is much cuter πŸ™‚ and gives you a lot more possibilities. I will keep that in mind for the next time. I can always count on you for great advice David, thanks!

  12. CoffeeAddict says:

    What a lovely post! You’re right, we need to be reminded once in a while because in our busy world our brains certainly go blank a lot of the time :-)…

  13. […] Just one really. Breasts. I know I mentioned it in one of my most recent posts where I share a vocabulary activity I used with my students for reviewing parts of the body, and […]

  14. Thanks for the great post i like really like it and even what you have posted on your FB account as Ann shared a link over here.

  15. […] April 5, 2011 — Teresa Bestwick Firstly, huge thanks to Cecilia for introducing me to this activity on her blog Box of Chocolates – I’ve tried it with 7-year-olds and FCE adults and to be […]

  16. Awesome tip on the live ‘models’. I was looking for a way to review body parts. This is great! Thanks for the tip. BTW…I understand how frustrating choppy internet is…mine hasn’t been so great here in Brazil either. arrrghhh! but it is improving. πŸ˜‰

    • Awesome that you liked it πŸ™‚ Hope it works well! And good luck with the internet… I found out mine was a stupid loose connection – unbelievable! πŸ™‚

  17. […] Cecilia Coelho shares her good ideas. Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Google Buzz-up this post Share via MySpace share via Reddit Share with StumbleUpon Tumblr it Tweet about it Tell a friend […]

  18. […] to building their vocabulary (I posted about some of these ideas before, the vocabulary bank and reviewing vocabulary); I work with sentence/paragraph structure; I do process writing; I give meaningful feedback. But […]

  19. […] VIEW POSTΒ by BOX OF CHOCOLATES ( Reviewing Vocabulary by BOX OF CHOCOLATES CLICK TO VIEW POST Students running for the words… CLICK TO VIEW by BOX OF CHOCOLATES LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_bg", "29241b"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_border", "3a3121"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_text", "9f9c80"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_link", "b58942"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_url", "b58942"); LD_AddCustomAttr("LangId", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "advanced"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "intermediate"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "teaching-education"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "vocabulary"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "advanced"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "intermediate"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "teaching"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "vocabulary"); LD_AddSlot("LD_ROS_300-WEB"); LD_GetBids(); Rate this: Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  20. […] with us Recycling/ Reviewing vocabulary Posted on 17 April, 2011 by Simon Thomas Cecilia Coelho shares her good ideas.Share this post:Bookmark on DeliciousDigg this postRecommend on FacebookGoogle Buzz-up this […]

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