If you’re looking for some ESL games and activities for word categories, then you’re certainly in the right place. Keep on reading for activities and games that are engaging, interactive and student-centred and can be used for vocabulary categories (jobs, animals, etc.) or various kinds of grammar (past tense verbs, adjectives, etc.).
You might also be interested in this list of categories.
Word Category Activities and Games
Let’s get into the best word categories games to use with English learners.
#1: Word Categories Volleyball
Divide the class up into two teams and put a row of desks down the middle. Using a balloon, students take turns hitting it back and forth between the two teams. The person hitting it has to say a word belonging to the category (animals, past tense verbs, adjectives, etc.). No word can be repeated.
If the balloon hits the floor or someone doesn’t say a word, the other team gets a point. Keep playing until a certain number of points is reached.
#2: Word Category Board Race
Divide the class up into teams (2-4, depending on the size of class and space on the whiteboard) and have each team line up in front of the whiteboard with one marker per team. Call out a category (animals, food, verbs, etc.) and the first student has to write a word from that category. Then, they pass the marker to the next student who has to do the same and they return to the back of the line. Continue the game for 1-2 minutes and the winner is the team with the most correct words.
#3: A to Z Alphabet Words Categories Game
Unless you teach absolute beginners, it’s likely that your students already know a bunch of words in any given category. In this case, consider using this as a warmer activity to help students activate their prior knowledge about a topic. Or, use it as a review at the end of class.
The way it works is that in pairs or small groups, students have to write down the alphabet on a piece of paper. Then, students have to write down a word that starts with each letter belonging to that certain category. For example jobs.
B = baseball player
D = doctor
F = fisherman
The team with the most words at the end of the allotted time is the winner. Check it out:
#4: Flyswatter Game
This is a nice game for creating some serious excitement in the classroom! If the word categories are related to vocabulary (jobs for example), then fill the board with a bunch of those. One student from each team comes to the whiteboard and takes a flyswatter. Give some hints about the world and the first student to slap the correct one gets a point for their team. Erase the word and add a new one.
If you’re focusing on categories of words related to grammar and building sentences, then fill the board with nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. Tell students to find a verb. The first student to slap one gets a chance to make a sentence with that word and if they do, they get a point for their team. Find out more:
#5: Word Category Concentration
This is a challenging memory game that works well for categories of words. Make up a bunch of matching cards that have a general category and then a specific item. Around 16 is a good number. For example:
Then, put students into groups of 3-4 and give each group a set of cards and it essentially becomes a vocabulary and matching memory game. Learn how to do it:
#6: Categories ESL Speaking Lesson
It’s quite easy to plan your own lessons about almost anything. Check out this video for the simple steps to follow:
#7: Word Association
Unless students are absolute beginners, it’s likely that they already know a good amount of vocabulary from a lot of different word categories (animals, jobs, clothing, food, adverbs, adjectives, etc.). If this is the case, doing something like this word association activity can be quite helpful for helping student activate their prior knowledge before jumping into the new stuff.
It’s basically a brainstorming exercise. More advanced, older students can do it in pairs while younger beginners can do it together as a class. Have a look here:
#8: Memory Circle Word Categories Game
This is a fun memory game that works well for kids. Call out a certain category (jobs) and the first student has to say a word (doctor). The second student says doctor and then adds their own word (truck driver). And so on it continues until someone misses or can’t add their own word. They sit down and are out of the game. Continue until time is up or until 1-2 people are left standing.
#9: Odd One Out
This is a nice word category game to try out with beginners. It can be used for vocabulary or grammatical concepts. Write down groups of four words, one of which doesn’t match:
- doctor, truck driver, hockey, teacher
- go, teach, eat, walked
In this first case, hockey doesn’t fit because it’s not a job. In the second case, walked because it’s a past tense verb. Multiple answers may be possible which I accept as long as students are able to support it with a reason. Check it out:
#10: Word Categories Survey
Just ask my students and they’ll tell you how much I love doing surveys in my classes! They cover a range of skills, get students out of their seats and moving around the classroom and can be used for almost any topic, grammar point or vocabulary set. Of course, it’s possible to use them for any word category (jobs, travel, sports, hobbies, etc.).
The better news is that it’s easy to make your own in just a few minutes once you get some practice with it. Find out how:
#11: Ball Toss Word Categories Game
Try out this fun game with kids. Write down a bunch of categories (job, food, city, etc.) using a marker on the beach ball. Then, students toss the ball around the classroom. Whoever catches the ball has to say a word from the category that their right thumb is touching. My rule is that no word can be repeated. Check it out:
#12: Listening for One Specific Word Category
Teaching listening skills can be a bit challenging. However, a way to make it a bit easier for our students is to get them to listen for one specific thing. In this case, it could be to take notes on all the jobs that they hear mentioned. Or, all the examples of past tense verbs. Base it on whatever category of words you’re teaching. More details here:
To review words in categories, consider using charades. Have a look at this video for all the details you need to know:
This is a challenging listening activity for more advanced level students. Find (or write) a passage that contains lots of words from the target category. Then put students into pairs and read it out at a faster than normal pace. Students have to take notes and try to recreate what they just heard.
Read it out again quickly and students do the same thing. Finally, they can compare what they have with the original version. The teacher can highlight the words from a certain category (with the students’ help of course). Check it out:
#15: Name 5 Things in a Word Category
This is a fast-paced warm-up game that’s ideal for word categories. In groups, students have to write down 5 things that belong to a certain category. Some easy ones are food, animals, things they can see in the classroom, etc. More advanced students can do things like things are good for the environment, things they can see that are yellow, habits that may cause cancer, etc.
The team that finishes first puts up their hands and that round is done.
#16: Appearance Adjectives
A common category of words is adjectives to describe people’s appearance. Here are some of my favourite games and activities:
#17: Sorting Activities
Provide students with a set of words and ask them to sort them into different categories. For example, you can give them a list of animals and ask them to categorize them into groups such as mammals, birds, reptiles, or insects. This activity helps students practice classifying words based on their characteristics.
#18: Word Bingo
Create Bingo cards with words from different categories. Call out words, and students have to mark the corresponding word on their Bingo cards. For example, if the category is “food,” the words can be “pizza, apple, sandwich, carrot.” This game not only helps students practice listening and vocabulary skills but also reinforces word categorization.
#19: Word Matching
Prepare cards with words and corresponding categories. Students have to match the word to its correct category. For instance, they can match the word “lion” to the category “animals.” This activity reinforces word association and helps students visually connect words to their respective categories.
#20: Category Puzzles
Create puzzles where students have to match words to their appropriate categories. For example, provide a grid with words on one side and categories on the other side. Students need to draw lines to connect each word with its correct category. This activity encourages critical thinking and reinforces word categorization skills.
#21: Sentence Completion
Provide students with incomplete sentences and ask them to fill in the blanks with words from specific categories. For example, you can give them a sentence like “I like to eat ___________” and ask them to fill in the blank with a food item. This activity helps students practice using vocabulary in context while reinforcing word categories.
Assign students different roles and have them engage in conversations where they use words from specific categories. For instance, they can play the roles of a customer and a shopkeeper discussing different types of clothing items. This activity encourages speaking and listening skills while reinforcing word categories.
#23: Wild Animals
If your students want to learn the names of some wild animals, be sure to refer them to this resource:
Help students learn the names of some popular drinks right here:
#27: English Verbs List
Check out this English verbs list for students to learn the names of the most common action words.
#28: Collective Noun List
Words like flock, pair and army are collective nouns. Check out this handy list for students:
Did you like these Word Categories Games?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 148 Pages - 03/09/2016 (Publication Date)
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There are a number of common questions that people have. Check out our answers to some of the most popular ones.
What are word categories?
Word categories are groups or classes that words can be classified into based on their grammatical functions or meanings.
Why is teaching word categories important for English learners?
Teaching word categories helps English learners understand the structure and usage of English language, enabling them to improve their grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills.
What are some common word categories in English?
Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections are some common word categories in English.
How can I assess students’ understanding of word categories?
You can assess students’ understanding through various methods, such as verbal quizzes, written exercises, categorization tasks, and interactive games. Monitor their ability to identify and classify words accurately within the given categories.
How can I make word category lessons engaging for ESL students?
Make word category lessons engaging by incorporating interactive activities, games, and hands-on tasks. Use colorful visuals, real-life examples, and technology-based resources to keep students motivated and involved in the learning process.
How can I support ESL students who struggle with word categories?
Provide additional practice and reinforcement activities for students who find word categories challenging. Offer scaffolding by providing examples, guiding them through the categorization process, and offering personalized assistance as needed.
How can I extend word category lessons for more advanced ESL students?
For more advanced ESL students, you can introduce more complex word categories, such as abstract nouns, adverbs, prepositions, idiomatic expressions, or specialized vocabulary related to their areas of interest or academic studies.
How can I incorporate word categories into everyday classroom activities?
Incorporate word categories into everyday classroom activities by using categorized word walls, encouraging students to categorize new vocabulary words, and integrating categorization tasks into discussions, writing exercises, or group projects.
Have your say about Words Categories Games and Activities
What’s your top pick for word categories games? Is it one of the options from this list or do you have another one that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API