Mystery Word ESL Vocabulary Game


If you want your students to start thinking more outside the box, this fun mystery word game can get them there while also building their vocabulary based on a particular theme or topic that you are covering in your class.

Student Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

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Age Group: Kids, Adults

Mystery Word ESL Vocabulary Game

Mystery Word Game Preparation:

You could prepare a few vocabulary concepts for this game before class or simply think of a few concepts in class as you go. The idea of the game is relatively simple so not much preparation is required at all.

Mystery Word Game Guidelines:

To start the activity, draw a circle on the board with a question mark at the center of it.

Extend a number of lines from the circle so that it looks like a bug with four legs. At the end of each “leg,” put a word at the end that relates to the mystery word in the center. You could add more legs with words for more hints depending on the students’ levels if you wish, but four word hints should be enough for most classes.

Use a simple example to start with so that everyone understands what to do. For instance, for the first “bug” you could put the words “toothbrush,” “mirror,” “shower,” and “shampoo” at the end of each leg. Elicit the answer “bathroom” from the class so they get the aim of the activity. Do another example that is more difficult so that they can get other ideas for what to do for the exercise.

After modeling the task, arrange the class into teams and have them all think of three to five different “mystery word bugs” with the words at the end of the “legs.” You can have them create more if time allows.

Encourage them to think of funny and entertaining ones based on your lesson’s theme to engage them more in the activity. Set a time limit for making them and monitor them as they create their “bugs.” Help any group that needs some suggestions for words etc.

Put the team names on the board to award points for the groups that guess the correct answers.

Have the first group go first and have them call out the four word hints at the end of each “leg.” The first team that shouts out the correct answer from the hints gets a point.

All of the following groups take turns calling out their word hints until everyone has finished. Complete the next rounds until all of the groups have finished with their last words.

Add up the points on the board and award the winning group of the mystery word game with a prize.

Follow-Up ESL Activities:

For follow-up activities, you could practice using the words in either a discussion exercise, like the 4 Corners Speaking Activity, or in a related writing activity based on any of the different themes that the students came up with.

View more vocabulary games.

View more ESL activities.


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