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Word Grab (or Chunk Grab)

Word grab is a simple game that can be adapted in a large number of ways for different students. With higher level teens and adults it requires little or no preparation. However, with young learners and lower levels the preparation can be as simple as getting some small cut up pictures of key vocabulary. In either case, the lexis which is practised can be collected and saved for future lessons and revised again.

word grab
In word grab, students aim to grab the word (or chunk) as quickly as possible.


1: For primary aged learners, prepare the words, letters or flashcards you wish to practise. For older students draw a grid on the board (as large as possible) with between 12 and 20 cells. In each cell write a word, collocation or chunk.

2: Divide the class into groups of between three and five. If you haven’t prepared word (or letter) cards, get students to prepare the cards by copying the words/letters from the board onto pieces of paper (cut up into about 4 x 4 cm). Each group will need a complete set of the words or letters.

3: Tell students to spread the pieces of paper out on a desk so that they can see all the words. Tell students to stand around the desk with their hands by their sides. You may need to re-emphasise this several times with young learners. Refuse to continue the game if students are not complying with your instructions.

4: Call out a letter or word, or describe a word from the board. Students should attempt to be the first in their group to grab the word.

5: Repeat until there is only one word left. The student in each group with the most words is the winner.


1: Instead of deciding what vocabulary to use in this game, ask students to think of five words or chunks they have learnt during their lessons. Elicit and add these to the table on the board. This step encourages students to make decisions about their learning therefore promoting learner autonomy.

2: If the vocabulary allows, you could ask students to draw the words, therefore adding challenge in recognising the words.

3: You could use minimal pairs in order to focus students attention to different sounds.

4: This game could also be used with pre-prepared vocabulary while listening to a song. Students can race to take the words as they hear them.

5: Instead of competing within their groups, students can work as teams. Tell students that one person from each group should bring the correct answer to you and place it in your hand.

Follow on:

Students of pre-intermediate or higher could use the chunks to build a story.

Example Language:

Letters (i.e. A, B, C)/Numbers (i.e. 1, 1st, 1.0, 1m)

Phonemic symbols

Minimal pairs (e.g. sit, seat, park, bark)

Lexical sets (e.g. colours, fruit, transport)

Idioms (e.g. the cat’s whiskers, the cat who got the cream)

Phrasal verbs (e.g. take up, take in, take away)

Words/phrases from song lyrics

Words/phrases selected by students

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