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Reinforcing Vocabulary

by David Martin

Students often encounter vocabulary in dialogs or stories and after practicing the dialog or reading the story they forget the word or are unable to apply it to novel situations. The following vocabulary game provides extra practice and reinforcement for vocabulary that has been previously studied.

This game has four purposes. One, it helps the students retain the vocabulary they have previously encountered. Two, it allows the students to practice listening and speaking in a meaningful context. Three, it affords practice in speaking with volume and emotion. Lastly, it entertains the students, thus creating a positive atmosphere within the classroom.

Before the class begins, select 10-20 vocabulary words that students have studied in class before. On a slip of paper, list half of the words, and on another slip, list the other half. Ideally, both lists will contain words of equal difficulty.

Next, divide the class into two teams (of equal ability), and have them sit in two circles on opposite sides of the room. Give each team a vocabulary list, explaining that they should not let the other team see their list. After that, write "Team 1" and "Team 2" on the board, and explain that the team with the most points at the end of a certain time limit (say 20-30 minutes) will be awarded a prize or will be the winner. This creates added incentive for getting the students to participate actively.

To begin the game, one person from Team 1 goes up and stands with his/her back to the board. Next, a member from Team 2 writes a vocabulary word from their list on the board behind the other team's member (so that s/he cannot see it). Team 1 now has 60 seconds to give clues to make their team member (who's standing at the board) guess what the word is. The team is allowed to supply any clue: a definition of the word, the sentence it was found in from a previous lesson, or body
language. The only restriction is that they cannot use the word, or any part of it, while giving their clues.

If the team member at the board guesses the word within the alloted 60 seconds, the team is awarded a point, and then the next team sends a member up to the board and the game begins again. In the case that a team member fails to guess a word within the time limit, then allow the other team to give clues.
This gives the opposing team a chance to express their ideas. Obviously, if the student is still unable to guess the word, the teacher must stop and explain the word to the class. The game is over when all the vocabulary on both lists have been used up or when a predetermined time limit has expired.

Students really enjoy this activity and usually become totally engrossed in it. In addition, it affords the production of a variety of language while the students are giving the clues. As an example of this, in a class I taught last semester, the vocabulary being explained was "calm down". One of the students remembered the dialog that "calm down" had appeared in before in class. The student repeated the dialog from memory: "Sarah, I'm sorry. I just forgot. Don't be so angry. _____ _____." However, the student at the board was still unable to guess the vocabulary, so his team members continued giving clues. Another student stood up and began to act like he was very mad, screaming and yelling at another student in his group. The student who was being yelled at said, "Don't get so mad. Relax. Just _____ _____." Finally, the student at the board remembered the vocabulary and blurted out "Calm Down!

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