The category game

Put students into pairs or small groups. Give them a category (e.g. things that are always round). They must think of 5 words in that category. When finished, each pair read their words to the class. For each word that is unique (i.e. no other pair has thought of), they get a point. Do this for 3 - 5 categories. Then get students to add up their points and find out who the class champions are.

Category ideas:

  • 5 adjectives to describe people,
  • 5 things you do to keep fit
  • 5 buildings found in a town
  • 5 creatures with 4 legs
  • 5 crimes
  • 5 diseases or illnesses
  • 5 garden tools
  • 5 hobbies
  • 5 insects
  • 5 jobs
  • 5 kinds of fruit
  • 5 kinds of tools
  • 5 kinds of vegetables
  • 5 languages
  • 5 musical instruments
  • 5 parts of a car
  • 5 parts of the body
  • 5 people who wear a uniform
  • 5 sports and games
  • 5 things found in a kitchen
  • 5 things found in a woman's handbag
  • 5 things kept in a fridge
  • 5 things made of wood
  • 5 things that are hard
  • 5 things that are red
  • 5 things that can fit in your pocket
  • 5 things that did not exist 50 years ago
  • 5 things that have keys
  • 5 things that live in the sea
  • 5 things that use electricity
  • 5 things that are bad for you
  • 5 things worn by men
  • 5 things worn by women
  • 5 things you can drink
  • 5 things you can eat
  • 5 types of transport
  • 5 verbs to do with moving (e.g. walk)
  • 5 wild animals
  • 5 things that are heavy
  • 5 verbs to do with speaking (e.g. talk)
  • 5 adjectives to describe moods and feelings (e..g depressed)
  • 5 words to do with money
  • 5 things found in the bathroom
  • 5 jobs that are well paid
  • 5 items of furniture
  • 5 tourist attractions in your country
  • 5 things that are round
  • 5 things people are often afraid of

A word for each letter of the alphabet

  • Put students into pairs. Give them a category. E.g. fruit They must try to think of one word in that category beginning with each letter of the alphabet. E.g. apple, banana, cranberry etc.
  • For lower levels, make the category broad (e.g. adjectives)


  • Give the students various categories (about 5) such as: clothing, crime, words with /u/ certain sound etc. and then give them a letter of the alphabet. The students have to find a word in each category that begins with that letter.

Category brainstorm

  • Choose some general categories, e.g.. food, animals, furniture, technology etc. Each group should have a secretary and each group should have 3 or 4 players. Tell students the first category and give them 3 minutes to write down as many items as they can. Then move on to the next category. Do this 3 times. Groups should pass their list of items to another group to be corrected, 1 point for every correct answer, minus 1 if it is wrong or there is a spelling mistake.

Words beginning with

  • Think of 10, 20, 30 words beginning with the letter "p" Or ending with it. Or for elementary, including it.


  • Write the alphabet on the board & tell the students a lexical, e.g. animals. Divide the class into two groups and give a different coloured pen to each group. One person from each group then runs up to the board and writes ONE word in that lexical set (starting with one of the letters).
  • They then give the pen to another student in their group to write up another word. This continues until the students can't think of any more words. Only one student from each team should be standing at one time and there can only be one word for each letter on the board. The winning team is the one with the most words on the board in their colour. You could then repeat the game with another lexical set.


  • I give them 4 or 5 minutes to brainstorm in their groups as many things as possible on a theme: for example, 'things that are round'. 'Things made of plastic'. 'Things with a hole'. 'Things you can do with a paper cup', etc. The possibilities are endless, and it's a fun, active way to get them warmed up and thinking in English.


  • Put Ss into pairs - give each one a shape (square, circle, rectangle, cube, sphere, pyramid, diamond, etc.). They have 2-3 minutes to think of as many things as possible, which are-generally ONLY that shape. You have to emphasize that the things on their list should normally only take THAT shape. Get the pairs to then walk around and tell other pairs their words and they have to guess the shapes. (They can challenge any they don't agree with).