Number one for English language teachers

Team games: The categories game

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Extra

This activity can be used to recycle or brainstorm vocabulary and is appropriate for all levels.


  • Divide the board into six columns and write one category at the top of each column, for example: ‘sport’, ‘profession’, ‘item of clothing’, ‘country’, ‘food and drink’ and ‘animals’. 
  • Divide the class into groups of four and give each group a piece of paper.
  • Tell them that the first team to provide a word for each category beginning with a particular letter will win a point. 
  • Then give them the first letter, ‘s’ for example. This might produce ‘skiing’, ‘singer’, ‘shirt’, ‘Spain’, ‘soup’ and ‘seal’.  
  • When a team is satisfied that they have six words and that they are correct, they should shout ‘Stop!’.  One person from this team should then come to the board and write down their words in the correct column.
  • Award points for each word that is spelt correctly.
  • Continue with four or five other first letters. 

A trickier variation on this activity is to play the game using sounds rather than first letters, so the learners have to find a word in each category containing a particular sound (note – not necessarily beginning with that sound; it could be anywhere in the word). The sound /e/, for example, might produce ‘tennis’, ‘vet’, ‘dress’, ‘Denmark’, ‘egg’ and ‘leopard’.

Tip: Always try it out yourself first. You may find, for example, that there is no sport beginning with ‘q’.  

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Readers' comments (4)

  • That's a very good one!

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  • Quoits.

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  • Ha ha! That's very true :-)

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  • Quidditch

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