Categories is a simple no-prep warmer that’s suitable for any level! This speaking & listening activity relies on students’ existing knowledge, so make sure the topic is familiar. It can be used to bridge topics and get students thinking. For example, if teaching a lesson about immigration, I might play Categories using the topics “jobs”, “transportation”, and “countries” to activate background knowledge before shifting to the new content.
How to Play Categories
The basic premise is that students have to produce new words within a given category. If they repeat a word, they’re “out”! If they take too long (play this by ear, but usually around 10 seconds), they’re “out”! Model the activity for the first time to show examples of repetition and taking too long, then allow students to referee each other during the game. There are usually one or two students who can keep this game going indefinitely, so for that reason, I use a timer for each round. The last student to produce an example wins.
Adjusting the Difficulty
You can adjust this activity for low-level students by choosing easy topics and giving more time. For young learners, you could even split students into two or more teams. For more-advanced students, I have them form a sentence using one or more grammar points when producing their idea. For example, given the topic “kitchen”, students might say, “You can bake bread in an oven.” If we are learning present continuous, they might say, “I am baking bread in my oven.”
Reading & Writing Skills
I play Categories as a speaking & listening activity, but you can adjust it to include reading & writing if it suits your needs. Students could write a list of content words before beginning the game, crossing them off as others share their words. Students could use mini-boards to write their word for their turn. I have a different activity called “Write 10” that is similar to categories but focused on writing, I will link it when it’s uploaded!
The Google Slides Template!
The Google Slide template includes simple animated instructions and twenty categories with (Vietnamese) L1 support translations. If you aren’t teaching Vietnamese students, I recommend using the official Google Translations for the category names in your students’ L1.
Each category includes an embedded timer and icons to give students ideas. There is a timer resource slide at the end for you to change the timer if you like, just copy / paste and resize.
The slideshow is View-only, but you are able to select all slides (ctrl + a) then copy (ctrl + c) and paste (ctrl + v) to your own slideshow. Below is a screenshot of the included slides:
That’s everything! I hope this activity is useful for your classroom!