ESL Games: Synonym Lingo Game

The Game: Synonym Lingo helps to build reading skills and vocabulary.

Research Says: Using this game with ESL students much like other games for vocabulary presentation and revision, according to Agnieszka Uberman in the article “The Use of Games for Vocabulary Presentation and Revision” (Forum, 1998) will help learners recall the vocabulary learned in a pleasant, entertaining way.

What You Need

  • 1 Lingo card for each student (5 across and 5 down with the “FREE” spot in the middle) printed on typing paper or cardstock
  • 36–40 selected vocabulary words for review—each word with 3 synonyms
  • 1 chart with the 36–40 words listed, and the synonyms
  • 36–40 cards each with one vocabulary word (index cards laminated)
  • Chips

How to Play:

  1. Students are given a blank Lingo card.
  2. Students select any synonyms from those generated earlier and fill in their boxes, each with one synonym.
  3. The teacher/caller shuffles the index cards and turns them face down.
  4. Chips are passed out for student use.
  5. The teacher/caller reads one card at a time and if the student(s) have a synonym for that word, they place a chip on their Lingo card, covering the synonym. The teacher/caller places the card on the large chart.
  6. For each vocabulary word that is read, the student answers can be checked in many ways. The class can recite the synonyms, one student can say them, or the teacher/caller can acknowledge if the synonym is correct or not.
  7. The person who fills his or her card first wins and shouts out “Synonym Lingo!”

How to Make It

  1. The students and teacher select 36–40 vocabulary words to review.
  2. These are written on a large chart and also on index cards (one word per card).
  3. The class helps find 3 synonyms for each of these vocabulary words.
  4. These are written on the chart, underneath each vocabulary word.



  • The game can be played similarly to how you “win in Bingo” with either 5 correct synonyms vertically, horizontally, diagonally; 4 in the corners; any which way determined ahead of time; or by filling the whole card.
  • The number and difficulty of the vocabulary words can be adjusted.
  • The Lingo card can be minimized with 9 or 16 squares.
  • Students can play in teams.
  • The game can be adapted for antonyms.


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.
This entry was posted in TESOL Blog and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.