The variety of topics in commercial English learning textbooks provide learners with a large number of new vocabulary items on different subjects. However, since most coursebooks jump from one unit to another in a relatively short time, learners don't have adequate time to practice the items they have encountered and retain them in long-term memory. Learners need to encounter the new words, phrases, and chunks several times to be able to remember and use them approriately. To overcome the problem of forgetting words quickly, English teachers are recommended to conduct recycling activities that ensure working on previously taught vocabulary over a number of sessions. I often include a recycling activity in my lessons as a warmer, time filler, or end-of-lesson activity. Warmers and time-fillers are best to be related to previous lessons to give learners the chance to work on the same language items in different contexts. My students often appreciate and enjoy any recycling activity that has a game-like feature. End-of-lesson recycling activities usually relieve tension after we have been working hard on something.
Here are my top five recycling activities that you may find in ELT books with different variations.
Taboo: Prepare a list of vocabulary items you want to review. Put students into groups of four and give them a set of cards with a previously learned word on each. Below each target word, there are usually three taboo words the person who has the card can't use. Instruct students to put the pile of cards face down. One student takes a card and defines the target word to the rest of the group. The other students should guess the word on the card to win it. If no one guesses the word, the card goes to the bottom of the pile. Students take it in turns to pick up a card and define the word. The one with the most cards wins at the end. See here a set of taboo cards for intermediate level learners. With low-level students remove the taboo words or only include one and have students use whatever words they know to define the target word. Click here to get a set of taboo game cards for elementary.
You had better provide students with useful language for the game such as:
It’s someone who …
It’s an adjective, noun, verb, adverb, etc.
It’s the opposite of … /similar to
Playing taboo recycles vocabulary items and engages students in using their language skills to negotiate meanings of words. Yet, the game doesn’t test if students can use the target words in correct sentences. For this reason, I have students put the cards face down again on the table. Now each student takes a card and has 30 seconds to form a statement using the word on the card. The other students decide if the sentence is correct or not and if they are in doubt, they can consult with the teacher. If the sentence is incorrect, the card goes to the bottom of the pile and another student takes a new car. Again, the one with the most cards wins.
Anagrams: An effective and easy activity that involves cognitive work is anagrams. It is a game-like activity, in which students unscramble words from randomly written letters. Write a list of vocabulary items for revision on the board with their letters in jumbled order (such as utelerc, nrasmei – for lecture, seminar). Get students work in pairs to unscramble the anagrams. The pairs who finishes first wins, and they are asked to come up to the board to write the words for the others to check the correct spelling. You can involve students with more productive tasks using anagrams; Click here to read about more tasks using anagrams.
Hot seat: it is a guess game similar to taboo but done with the whole class. Divide the class into two or three groups. Have one student from each group come and sit with his/her back to the board. Write a word on the board for the teams who have to define, explain, or give synonyms/ antonyms of the word to the students in front to guess. The student (facing the teams) who guesses first gets his/ her team a point. Next, those students go back to their places and new two students (depending on the number of teams) come to sit in the front with their backs to the board. Continue the activity until each student in each team has a turn to sit in the front and try to guess a word. The team with the most points wins.
Bingo: A simple, fun game that involves all my students for the sense of completion it has is Bingo. It’s also one of the easiest activities to set. Write a list of 16-17 words to review on the board. Have students draw a grid with nine squares. Then they choose nine words from the list and write them in the squares.
Tell your students that you are going to give definitions of nine words from the list. Each time a student thinks you have given a definition of a word in his/her grid, he/she crosses it out. The one who crosses out all the nine words first shouts BINGO and wins. Once the game is over, you may want to facilitate a productive task using the words on the board. Get students write seven to eight sentences using words from the list. Next they exchange the sentences with their partners to check and give feedback on the language and content.
Find someone who: This mingle activity could be used to practice or review any
vocabulary or grammar items. Prepare 12 to 15 statements using vocabulary or concepts that relate to your previous unit of study. For example, if you taught a unit on technology, prepare statements such as the following:
Find someone who
…uses social media for more than three hours a day.
… has used online banking recently.
…plays online games.
…writes on a blog.
Announce that students will ask each other questions. Instruct students to ﬁnd others who can answer their questions with “yes”. They should write a different name next to each statement. Pass out the worksheet and elicit the correct question form for each statement on the list. Now students mingle around the class asking their peers and write that person’s name on their checklist sheet and go on to the next question with another person. A student can write a person’s name only twice. Encourage students to ask follow-up questions for each statement to make the activity more conversational.
Do you use any other interesting recycling activities? Share your ideas with us.