Number one for English language teachers

Team games: The top twenty

Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Extra

This is a team exercise based around the concept of word frequency.

Procedure

  • Introduce to the concept of word frequency (the words that are used most often in a language). Learners in pairs try to compile a list of the 20 most frequent words in English.
  • After five minutes, read out the list of the twenty words below, and students check their list. The pair with the most words is the winner of this part of the game.
  • Here's the list, taken (somewhat selectively) from the British National Corpus. Other equivalent lists for other varieties such as American written / spoken English are available. In order, left to right:

THE, IS, WERE, OF, AND, A, AN, IN, TO, HAVE, HE, IT, THEIR, NOT, FOR, YOU, SHE, WITH, ON, THAT

  • Write this list on the board.
  • Now put the students into two or three groups. Each group nominates a secretary. The groups have between five and ten minutes to produce a single text (related to the lesson theme) containing as many of the words on the list as possible. The secretary writes on the board while the others shout ideas. The best text wins (this can be decided by teacher or Sstudents or both). Have an error correction session afterwards if desirable.

Variation

  • Put students into two, or three, or four teams according to numbers. The students choose words and have to make a correct sentence with each. If the sentence is wrong, the next team gets a go. One point for each correct sentence. Cross each word off the list as it's used. If more difficulty is required, insist on gradually increasing the number of words needed in the sentences. The team with most points wins.
  • The rationale is to give confidence to lower levels that they actually know and can use these important words. All skills are used in the second part of the warmer.

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