ESL Games: Gimme the Word

The Game: The game of Gimme the Word helps students with their knowledge and review of vocabulary words by using oral language and description. It builds on listening skills and higher level thinking skills.

Research Says: This creative language game “…provides language practice in various skills—speaking, listening and reading. It encourages students to interact and communicate. It creates meaningful context for language use” (“Creative Games for the Language Classroom” in Forum, Lee Su Kim, January—March 1995).

What You Need

  • Two groups of students (3–8 students/group)
  • Preselected words (5 words per common theme per round) written on paper (2 copies of each set of 5) that no one sees ahead of time

What You Do
A different person from each group will give single-word clues for each round. The person is given a list of five words. The clue-giver from Team A begins with a word clue given to see if his or her team can guess the word. If the team does not, then the clue-giver from Team B gives a word clue to see if his or her team can guess the same word.

The clues continue being given back and forth between Team A and Team B by the same person on each team until the word is guessed. This action is repeated four more times with four additional words.

Then the game continues with a new group of words with a different theme. This time, Team B starts with a different clue-giver, followed by Team A, and so on. When the five new words have been guessed,  the game continues with yet another set of words from a new theme with different people on each team giving the clues.

Illegal clues are those that use the word or part of the word, more than one word, or a foreign word that translates to the word itself. The teacher should model how to play the game and different types of clues that would best be used with given words.

The game can be played for fun or it can be timed. There can be an agreed upon time frame allowed per clue to be given and/or guessed, or a total time allowed per round.

For the theme of Sports, the five words might be hockey,  golf, polo, diving, and cricket. For the word hockey, word clues given by students might be “ice,” “puck,” “net,” “goal,” and “Zamboni.”


For the theme of Jobs, the five words might be lawyer, secretary, landscaper, engineer, and mayor. For the word lawyer, word clues might be “court,” “gavel,” “represent,” “witness,” and “consult.”




Read Marc’s other ESL Games posts. Marc’s previous blogs with TESOL as a guest blogger include the highly popular “Best Language Learning Games” series.

About Marc Anderson

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.
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