We write your ESL lessons for you

For just a few dollars a month, get hundreds of professionally-written, ready-to-go lessons and activities. Sign up below and be the first to know when we launch.

The ABC technique for vocabulary teaching

large__3682043664This is a great activity to get your students to review the vocabulary that they already know, rather than spoon-feeding it to them. It gets them working in pairs or small groups, using their dictionaries (or the course book – or their memories, for that matter) and it can generate all sorts of new items as well.

I like giving students an objective when they review vocabulary, and that’s why the ‘ABC list’ is so good. The idea is simple: students must think of an example for each letter of the alphabet. Lets say, a job from a-z, or an emotion from a-z.

If your time is limited, or your class size quite big, what also works is to divide the class in two. So half the class finds an example from a-m, with the other half doing n-z. Some letters might not need to be covered (particularly j, x or z).

Give the pairs or groups a reasonable amount of time, and then ask each group for a contribution. So group 1 gives a job beginning with A, group 2 follows with a job beginning with B, and so on.

This activity has endless variations. For more advanced groups you might want to add parameters: jobs that you can do indoors or outdoors; positive emotions or negative emotions; emotions that are more typically ‘masculine’ and emotions that are more typically ‘feminine’, for example.

Either do it as a stand-alone review activity (where the objective is just to generate a list of words) or as a springboard for a discussion-type pre-reading tasks.

The ‘ABC of…’ was taught to me by the DOS at the Central School of London.

Photo credit: vintage85

If you found this article helpful, please share:

More ESL lessons and activities help

  • Grammar
  • Speaking and Pronunciation
  • Vocabulary activities
  • Warmers
  • Writing