TEFL Word Game, Courtesy Of Hasbro

taboo_box.jpgTaboo is word game that rivals only crossword puzzles (and perhaps clever roleplays) in my mind. If you’re from an English-speaking country, you’re probably already familiar with the concept via the Hasbro party game of the same name. One player somehow gets the other(s) to guess a certain word; in this case there is also a list of other words given which the “explainer” must not mention. For example, “ladder” might be the word to describe, but without saying “climb, rungs, or firetruck” or any forms of those words.

Much like with crossword puzzles, students get practice explaining words in different ways, and the taboo words make it more challenging and interesting. It is also easy to incorporate an element of competition, though it may be wise to do some kind of trial run to see how your students do; I’ve found that even relatively easy words often defy time limits, even with more advanced students. And it can of course be de-motivating for students to keep missing the time limit. I personally like the method of two teams working at once, seeing how many words they can get through in a set time period, rather than, say, one minute for one person to explain.

If you can get ahold of any of the original versions of Taboo, you’re set…for very advanced or proficiency learners. Be warned that many of the terms to be defined are slang or cultural references (think “Screech” on Saved By The Bell or something). The Upper Intermediate Reward Resource book also has two pages of Taboo cards. You can always make your own – or get students to make their own. Just make sure they know to keep the words a secret from the other teams while preparing the cards! Either way, making taboo cards from scratch can be time consuming; but you can use it to revise and reinforce vocabulary, and if you make sure to recycle the activity with another class, you’re good to go.

I really enjoy Taboo as a game in itself (plus I think teaching has made me a star at this type of game and Pictionary), and have found it to be a hit for most of my adult students as well – not only because it is fun but because it is useful too.