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Hot Seat / Back to the Board

If there is one game that all English teachers should have up their sleeve, it’s hot seat, or back to the board. This game is also known as taboo when modified slightly.

Whatever you call it, hot seat can be played with just about any class providing they already have some language.

hot seat back to the board
In hot seat / back to the board, students take turns to guess a word or phrase from clues their classmates give them.


1: Invite one student to sit in the hot seat (S1) facing away from the board.

2: Write a word on the board.

3: The other students should describe the word so that S1 can guess what it is.

On whiteboard: Hippo
S2: It’s a large animal. It lives in Africa… in the river.
S1: Elephant. No, hippo.


Online: If you are using Zoom, you can put a student back into the waiting room while you tell the other students what the word or phrase they need to guess is. If you are using other platforms, you may be able to set up two rooms, move one student to the second and then bring them back to the first room when you are ready for them.

1: Divide the class into teams and have a student from each sitting in front of their team. The student in the hot seat who guesses correctly first wins a point for their team. It is a good idea to tell the teams to put their hands up when they are done so that you can see who was fastest.

2:In addition to giving a word to describe, write three or four words which students must not use to describe the word. For example the word “wheel” might be accompanied by words such as “car”, “round” and “bicycle.” This version also works with variation 1. Students particularly enjoy if they get to choose the words that should not be used.

Example Language:

Words/phrases studied in this lesson.

Words/phrases studied recently.

Suggestions from students.

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