Number one for English language teachers

Teenagers: game 7: triple pelmanisms

Type: Game

Games to play with teenagers in the English classroom.

The pairs version of this is quite well-known. Students have a number of cards in front of them upside down and they must take turns turning over two. If they get a word that matches the picture they keep the cards. The student with most pairs at the end is the winner.

This version is more challenging and I have had classes of teens thoroughly enjoying the challenge.

The version below is based on lexical sets, but you could choose the three parts of the verb (go, went gone, drink, drank, drunk etc).

Prepare cards like the ones below:



  • Cut up the cards, ensuring you cannot read the words when the card is upside down. Spread them on the floor upside down and mixed up.
  • Divide your class into up to five teams. Each team must nominate a secretary who will choose the cards.
  • One at a time each secretary will ask the teacher to turn over three cards (great for ‘on the right’, ‘that one near your foot’ etc).
  • The team only wins the cards if the words are all in the same lexical set.
  • Otherwise the teacher turns them over again in exactly the same place as they were.
  • The teams with most ‘threes’ at the end is the winner.

Students really focus on the position of the cards and think carefully about meaning of words and how they connect.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Hi Giulia,

    No problem at all! Thanks for the feedback. Your game sounds great and it's good to hear your idea for adapting this exercise. Lexical sets are just one of many ways to make pelmanisms work for different classes. With high levels, you could also use collocation (e.g. watch + closely, listen + carefully, speak + clearly) or with low levels you might look at basic antonyms (before + after, pass + fail, big + small). Let us know if you have any other ideas that work well for your class.

    Best wishes,
    The onestopenglish team

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  • Hi there, I am not sure what the children are actually learning... It would make a lot more sense to have for example a noun and then find the 2 words that "connect" to the noun for ex: kitchen - cook - smell or Italy - food - holiday. And this would also open up the opportunity to create some sentences for ex: When my mum cooks, the kitchen smells wonderful! Or I like going to Italy on holiday because the food is delicious. Sorry...I completely changed the activity but I really didn't find the game useful at all as it was.

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