Best Language Learning Games: Part 2 of 5

Full size imageA Guest Post by Marc Anderson
Marc Anderson is the CEO of online English training company that teaches English online to students around the world.  During his free time he likes to read, travel, and enjoy life. 


Last week, the language game Scrambleword was featured as one of my top learning games for ELL students. This week I thought I would share a version of the game Smart Mouth. It’s a quick-thinking word game that can be played individually or in teams, and it is designed to promote quick thinking, increase vocabulary, and build spelling skills.

Smart Mouth

How to Play

There are 36 “start” letter cards and 36 “end” letter cards placed face down in two containers labeled “start” and “end.”  One student picks one letter card from each container and places them on the table for other players to see. The rule is to shout out words that begin with the “start” letter and end with the “end” letter to win that round. Words must be five or more letters in total.

Anderson_SmartMouthWhoever says a correct word first, using the two start and end letters, takes the cards. In the event of a tie, you can split the cards or have those two students do the next round alone, and the winner of that round gets all four cards. The person who wins any round selects two more cards to place on the table, and the game continues.

When all of the cards have been used, the game is over. If you want, you can have students count their cards to see who has gotten the most, or you can try to have students beat their own individual totals each time.

My students like to play with dictionaries to help find suitable words. You can offer mini-lessons on prefixes, suffixes, etc. as students begin to use these words or need help forming words with the more difficult letters.

Materials Needed

  1. 18 index cards to be cut in half.
  2. Two different colored markers (one to use for starting letters and one for ending letters).
  3. 2 plastic containers or small boxes to hold the cards.

How to Make the Game

  1. Write each of the 18 letters twice on the cards (one letter on the top half of the card in one colored marker and the same letter on the bottom half of the card in a different colored marker).
  2. Starting/ending letters should include: a, b, c, d, e, g, h, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, w, y.
  3. Cut the cards in half, and laminate (optional). Separate the cards into two stacks of single colors (the “start” letters and the “end” letters).
  4. Place a set of cards in each labeled container.


  • Rather than have students work on a table, write the letters on the board and students can shout out words from their seats; this can work better with larger classes so that everyone can see.
  • Depending on the ability of your students, you can use three to four letter words to start with, or consider even longer words for more advanced students.
  • Also for more capable students, you can try using only proper nouns or think of categories that the words must relate to (weather, living things, geographical terms, etc.)

I hope your students enjoy this game. Can you think of other variations?

Look for Part 3 of my Best of the Best next week!

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2 Responses to Best Language Learning Games: Part 2 of 5

  1. Weijuan He says:

    It is a good way to trigger students to learn vocabulary. I will try this on my students in China. Thanks!

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