Vocabulary Tennis

In the Vocabulary Tennis ESL game (also known as word tennis or vocabulary volleyball), students trade vocabulary words from a pre-defined category.

Students for Vocabulary Tennis ESL Game:2+Time for Vocabulary Tennis ESL Game:10-20 mins
Resources for Vocabulary Tennis ESL Game:
Ball (Optional)

A ball is not necessary for the Vocabulary Tennis ESL game, but it does make it more fun.

Divide your class into two teams. The teams stand on opposite sides of the classroom.

Note: If you have a large number of students, you may want to divide your class into groups first. If you play with a ball, you will need one for each group.

  1. Give the students a vocabulary category, e.g. food, animals, jobs etc.
  2. One team says a word from that category (and throws the ball to the other team if there is one).
  3. The other team has to respond with another different word from that category, and the process repeats. If playing with a ball, the student who catches the ball has to say the word.
  4. If a student repeats a word or takes too long, the other team wins a point. To determine if a student takes too long you can use your discretion as umpire, or the other team could count down from ten after their word is said.
  5. Play with a different vocabulary category for each new point (unless a point is particularly short!).
Target Language

You can use the Vocabulary Tennis ESL game to practise almost any type of vocabulary, and as such it can be adapted to any level. For beginner students or kids choose easy categories like foodanimals, or body parts. For intermediate students you could use categories like sports and hobbies or jobs. There are less vocabulary categories that could be specifically aimed at advanced students, but they will still have fun forming longer rallies.

If you want to liven things up with more advanced students (and you have enough space), you could try playing “vocabulary volleyball” with an inflatable beach ball. Make a net with chairs/tables in the middle, and instead of timing the responses, the students can only hit the ball over the net if they say a vocabulary word. They lose the point if the ball touches the floor or they repeat a word. It’ll be tough for them to think quickly enough, but they’ll definitely enjoy it!

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