In addition to the longer lessons that make up the main body of our curriculum, we like to add supplementary activities. Sometimes these are quick warm-ups intended to loosen up our students and get them into the right frame of mind. Other activities help us with vocabulary building, or simply act as intellectual “filler” to give students a respite from a class full of heavier, harder-to-digest content. We recently picked up a copy of Penny Ur’s and Andrew Wright’s book, Five-Minute Activities and thought we’d share a few of our favorite 5-minute activities with you.
5 Five-Minute Activities to Improve Vocabulary Building & Description
The Abstract Picture
Draw a big rectangle on the board; inside of it add a variety of lines, squiggles, dots and shapes. Now take a step back and ask the class what they see. What do they think the picture represents? You will get more interaction if you assure students that there is no right or wrong answer. This activity works particularly well for English teachers who are teaching descriptive or creative writing and vocabulary.
Adjectives and Nouns
This activity asks students to suggest adjective-noun phrases. For example, an abstract painting, or a drowsy truck driver. As your students make suggestions, write the adjectives on one side of the board and the nouns on the other.
Now students have to create different adjective-noun combinations. When a suggestion is made, draw a line to connect one word to another. If your students suggest something unusual—a drowsy painting, for example—ask them to explain their word combination. Can a painting be drowsy? How so?
The Ambiguous Picture
This is another fun activity for teaching description.
Begin by drawing a small part of a picture. Now ask your students to guess what it’s going to be. The more opinions the better—and be sure not to reject ideas. Now build up your picture in stages, each time asking your students to guess what it is. If students guess, we like to throw them for a loop by changing the original idea.
We use this activity to review vocabulary and practice imaginative association. The teacher begins the activity by saying a word—tyrant, for example. Now the teacher randomly points to a student who must come up with a word association. The student might associate tyrant with merciless. Now that student points to another student who continues the process. If you want to quicken the pace of the game or make it more challenging, set a time limit or limit students to using only the vocabulary words they are studying.
Brainstorming ‘Round a Word
Start by writing a recently learned vocabulary word on the board and then ask your students to suggest all the words they associate with it. Write these down and draw spokes from each association to the root word.
If you want to make the game more challenging, impose restrictions. For example, tell students that they can only use adjectives that apply to the central noun. Or invite verbs that apply to the noun.
For advanced classes, try beginning with a root word—“part,” for example. This might lead to words like depart, impart, partner, part-time, and so on.
These are only five of over 130 activities you’ll find in Five-Minute Activities. Should you need more, check out our most recent guide, Breaking the Ice: 15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School.