Categories Word Search

Categories Word Search is a simple exercise which gives students practice in grouping and thinking about either semantic fields or parts of speech‏‎ (word classes) or both.


You will need a method of choosing a letter of the alphabet‏‎ at random. This could be by using flashcards‏‎ with one letter of the alphabet on each. In this case these will need to be made. Alternatively you could use a Scrabble bag (which is useful as the letters are numerically distributed according to frequency so letters like X or Z or Q will turn up less often.

Finally if none of these are available you could get a student to close their eyes, open a book and point at the text at random; whichever letter is under their finger becomes the chosen letter.

Running the Activity

Have the students take a sheet of paper and write down a number of categories. What categories you suggest will depend on the class. You could make them word classes:

  • Noun
  • Verb
  • Adverb

and so on; in general these should be open classes (i.e. avoid prepositions‏‎, pronouns‏, etc…). Or you could make them semantic fields:

  • Job
  • Food
  • Country

Next, choose a letter at random using one of the methods above. Call out the letter and the students have 30 seconds to write down one word beginning with that letter for each category:

Suppose you picked out M

  • Noun: mountain
  • Verb: make
  • Adverb: merrily
  • Job: mandolin player
  • Food: meat
  • Country: Madagascar

After thirty seconds (or 1 minute, whatever time frame you think is appropriate) all pens are down and the class all put their hands up.

Ask the first student for their noun. If they are the only student in the class with that word they get a point and put their hand down. If other students in the class have that word as well, no points are given out and those students put their hands down. Go round the class and give out points to all students with unique nouns.

Then have them put their hands up again and move on to verbs‏‎ and do the same. The idea here is that you want your students to come up with different and more unusual words, that is you want them to think a bit about what they are doing.

Of course at the end of the activity you tot up the scores and see which student is the most original.

Variations on a Theme

  • The activity can be run as a team game with points won for the team rather than the individual.

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Posted in Lesson Plans & Activities.

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