Big Sentence Scramble

Big Sentence Scramble is based on the British television game, Countdown. In the original version contestants choose letters (consonants or vowels) and have to come up with the longest word they can. Although that’s a possibility too, in this version contestants choose words and have to come up with the longest sentence possible.

This activity encourages analytical thinking on the part of the students; they will also practice their sentence construction and of course revise parts of speech. It is best for intermediate and above students.


You will need sets of words according to their parts of speech. Thus you can make a set of flashcards for the closed classes:

  • prepositions
  • conjunctions

And then larger sets for the open classes:

  • verbs
  • nouns
  • pronouns
  • adjectives
  • adverbs

The more you can make, the better.

Running the Activity

In class you might need first to revise the parts of speech. Once your students are familiar with them, lay out each set of cards at the front of the class, shuffling them first. Divide the class into small groups and then invite a good student from one of the groups to choose any class of word. Choose a card from that class and put it where the class can see (if you can attach it to the board somehow or prop it in view, all the better).

Then get another student to choose another class of words. Then another and so on until you have a selection of, say, 10 words on the board (this number can vary, as you play it with the class you’ll get an idea of what kind of length is best).

Now, each group has 5 minutes (or whatever time you decide) to construct the longest possible sentence they can with the words on the board. They can use the words in any way they want (e.g. a noun can be used as a verb if it fits) and they can conjugate and decline in whatever way they want (e.g. if the verb is walk they can have walked, walking but NOT have walked which would require another word, have).

Let’s suppose a student picks out these words:

  1. pronoun: they
  2. pronoun: we
  3. noun: car
  4. noun: dress
  5. noun: teeth
  6. determiner: the
  7. verb: eat
  8. verb: think
  9. verb: run
  10. adverb: strangely

Possible sentences here include:

Thoughtfully we dressed the car strangely.

Strangely, they think we ate the car.

As you can see the sentences needn’t be too logical. As along as they are grammatically correct, that’s fine. You can award points for the team with the longest sentence and perhaps extra points for any particularly clever or amusing sentences as well.

Once the class have played this a few times they will be better able to pick out certain classes of words which they think will go together more effectively. In other words, through a game they will working out effective sentence construction.

Useful Links

Parts of Speech‏‎ in English Grammar – PoS explained.

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Posted in Lesson Plans & Activities.

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