I want to describe practical steps one can take in a class to make vocabulary classe a little more fun.

As we all know, vocabulary should really be taught from within a context; either hidden within a range of activities and exercises, or presented in small, closely related groups (food, cooking, shopping,shops etc.)

All too often our work becomes one of supporting a pupil instead of teaching them. We either have to prepare pupils for a Cambridge English exams or support what they learn at school.

All too often context is a time consuming luxury teachers can afford to offer.

Despite that it’s possible to create context for pupils and one of my favourite ways is by using SRS (Spaced Repetition Software).

My favourite is Anki SRS, but any SRS software could be used.

Basic vocabulary with younger students

Some teachers like to give pupils lists of words, and sadly many parents even expect lists of words from teachers. So if you’re ever face with one

  1. The first step is to have a list of words available

Ask the pupils to draw images for the words either on a whiteboard or on paper. I then used my mobile phone to capture the images. It’s then possible to combine these and images on a  flashcard.


  1. Do it at the end of a good lesson, using some sort of visual countdown timer to make sure the students don’t start turning an English class into a drawing one.
  2. Don’t add the photos to the flashcards during class time

Older students and more advanced vocabulary

For younger students it  can be enough for a student see a drawing of an object to give some context to vocabulary, but this gets more difficult as the students get older or the vocabulary more advanced.

How can you expect a student to create an image of the word like in all its forms: verb, preposition and adjective?

An alternative is to use the flashcards as story or conversation generator:

  1. I turned a list of irregular verbs into a deck of flash cards.
  2. I then ask the student or students to think up silly sentences using the words the software presents to the learner.

This often requires you to start the ball rolling and will tax both your and your student’s imagination.


  1. Write down some of the more interesting and amusing sentences for use at a later date.

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