Number one for English language teachers

Team games: Word taboo

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

This activity is adapted from a popular party game.


  • Put students into groups of four, depending on their ability.
  • First, the group chooses a word that they have learned and write the chosen word at the top of a piece of paper.
  • Next, the group chooses five 'taboo' words and writes them at the bottom section of the paper. (The 'taboo' words are defined as the five most common words that a student would be likely to use in explaining the meaning).
  • After the Word Taboo slips of paper have been completed, the papers are placed into a pool and volunteers are selected from each group. Each volunteer's role is to take any of the Word Taboo papers from the other groups and try to get the whole class to guess the word by describing it in words and sentences. The group which created the Word Taboo is not allowed to play on that occasion.
  • The volunteers are not allowed to say any of the five taboo words, to mime the words, to make sound effects, to sing tunes that relate to the words or to spell the words. To make sure that the volunteer does not mention the taboo words a group member who designed the Word Taboo will stand behind the volunteer to monitor his/her words and actions.

The volunteer who can help the class guess the word(s) in the shortest possible time will make his/her group the winner of the contest. On the other hand, if the volunteer says or does any of the taboo words or actions, they have to sit down.


The words selected could be confined to word groups such as verbs, parts of the body, vehicles, food, etc. This will also help the weaker students.

Rate this resource (4.67 average user rating)

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

You must be signed in to rate.

  • Share

Readers' comments (3)

  • Hi Bartonim,

    Thanks for your useful comments. I'm sure other teachers will find them useful!

    The onestopenglish team

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Also to add to my earlier comments, I keep the taboo words to a minimum of about three--this makes it easier for the students to come up with clues or hints not within the taboo lists. Of course, it is level-adaptable, so it is up to the teacher to impose limitations.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I like this activity because it is student-generated, which means the taboo words should be in their lexicon. Of course, it is wise to remind them to keep both the secret word and its taboo words simple. I assign letters (for example, a-m for half the class, and n-z for the other) so there is less of a chance of repeated words. You still have to monitor each group, but to save time here, you can assign letters individually to each student. That way, duplicates are not going to be a problem.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

sign in register

Powered by Webstructure.NET

Access denied popup