Constantinople is a traditional word game that can be easily adapted for the ESL classroom. It works as an ideal filler activity at the end of class and can also be used to tire out lively students!

It practices vocabulary but can also be adapted for semantic fields.

Running the Game

Divide the board into two halves. At the top of each half write in capital letters, well spaced:


Then divide the class into two groups and have them stand in a line on either side of the class. Give the first person in each line a piece of chalk (or board pen as appropriate).

On your command they have to rush to the board and write down a word – any word – beginning with C and vertically down. When they’ve done this they rush back to the line and hand the chalk to the next student and sit down. The next student rushes to the board and writes a second word:










The first team to complete the word wins.

Variations on a Theme

  • make the key word different; if there are more than 22 students in the class then the word either has to be longer than CONSTANTINOPLE (which has 11 letters) or you need to divide the class into 3 groups (if the board is big enough)
  • to stop students preparing words beforehand, get the students to write their name on a piece of paper and put it in a team hat; whenever someone writes a word on the board they have to run back, choose a name from the hat at random and then that person must go to the board and write the new word
  • make all the words written apply to a single semantic field
  • any words written that are longer than 7 letters get an extra point for the team
  • the keyword can be an unusual one the students don’t know; after a couple of games with it they are sure to remember the word and then you can choose a new, strange, keyword

Political Sensitivity

In Turkey the city of Constantinople had its name officially changed to Istanbul in the 1930s. If you are playing this game in either Greece‏‎ or Turkey then you might want to use a different keyword to begin the game. Any long word will do!

Posted in Lesson Plans & Activities.

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