Vocabulary Recycling

Group Writing

One of my favourite activities to recycle vocabulary is one that I learned from a student teacher I was mentoring. It involves writing, listening, and peer editing.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Time: 45 minutes


  1. Place students in groups of three.
  2. Dictate 10 words they have studied.
  3. Hand out ten cards numbered 1 -10. Shuffle them and place them in a pile face down.
  4. Student 1 turns over a card. If the card is #8, for example, the student has to use the 8th dictated word in a sentence that starts the story. Student 2 listens to the sentence and writes it down.
  5. Then Student 2 turns over a card and uses the corresponding word in the next sentence. This sentence has to advance the story. Student 3 listens and writes down the sentence.
  6. Next, it’s Student 3’s turn to pick a card, find the word that corresponds with it and use it in the next sentence in the story. This time Student 1 listens and writes it down.
  7. Now it’s back to Student 1 to pick a card, make a sentence while Student 2 listens and records it. The activity continues until all the cards are used.
  8. At the end of the activity, I ask the students to read their stories aloud to the class. I let them know at the beginning that they will be doing this. Some research has shown that students make a greater effort with their work when they know their peers will see it. (I have to say that this has borne out in my classes).

Of course, the stories are usually quite fantastical, since it’s often challenging to further a story about a camping trip when you suddenly have to incorporate the word “lobby” into the storyline. We’re always amazed at how different all the stories turn out, despite having to use the same ten words.

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Why this activity is awesome

  1. Regular recycling of vocabulary helps with automaticity. Students are more likely to remember and use words they have seen many times and used over and over.
  1. Students get to try out new language. It’s a good opportunity to see if they use the words in proper structures, collocations and contexts. I monitor throughout this activity and give feedback on these points and answer questions.

 This is why I often have students write in class: I can guide them as they are in the process of writing instead of correcting mistakes on work they did at home. I find it more effective to talk with students as they are writing and discuss their choices they are making.

  1. What can warm a teacher’s heart more than seeing a group of students discussing whether a gerund or infinitive follows a particular word? Or if commas are needed in that relative clause? Yes, a lot of peer editing occurs in this writing activity. The ability to edit work is a valuable one for students, since they will use this skill on exams, in their academic work, etc.
  1. This writing activity integrates listening skills since the students have to listen to their partner’s sentences and record them correctly.
  1. Weaker writers get support from their partners and often feel a great sense of accomplishment that they helped create a great piece of fiction.
  1. Group writing is an opportunity for students to get experience working on a team. This is a soft skill that is essential for any student planning to work or study in Canada.






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