taboo cards

I am sure you are familiar with the card game Taboo. You may have the game at home or you may have even brought it to your classroom for the students to play. As we all know, the goal in a game of Taboo is to get your teammates to guess the word you are describing, but there is a list of taboo words you can’t say, more precisely five on each card.

In this activity that centers on reviewing vocabulary, the students will be producing the taboo cards. First of all, ask the students if they know the game. Is there anyone who has the game at home? How do you play it?

If you want, you can play the short two-minute video embedded below and write these sentences from the video on the board (or display on a screen) for the students to complete with one word each. The sentences come from the first minute of the video. Get the students to write down the sentences and complete them with the missing words and them play the first minute of the video for them to check. Then ask them what can possibly be the missing information about the game that they are likely to see on the second minute. Let them work in pairs first, then elicit a few answers and finally resume play.

  1. The object of the game is for your team to … the most points.
  2. Divide the … into two teams.
  3. The clue giver says words to get their team to … the word at the top of the card.
  4. The clue giver is not … to say any of the taboo words listed on the card.

Answers: 1. score   2. players   3. guess   4. allowed

Now tell the students that they are going to play your version of the game. In your version of the game, they create taboo cards with vocabulary that they have seen in class with you (the source can be the textbook, worksheets, annotations on the board, etc.). Tell the students to make cards out of paper (about 4 per student) and choose four interesting words that they have seen in class. They will write those words at the top of each card (one word on each card).

They will also need to write up to five taboo words for each card to go with the target word. If they are allowed to use Internet connecting devices in the classroom, invite them to look up those words in an online dictionary, such as Wordreference. As an example, I am going to use this textbook material as target vocabulary.towns and cities

From English File Third Edition, Upper-Intermediate, OUP. Free crossword puzzle from the publisher here.

So imagine, a student chooses the word “skyscraper”. She can access Wordreference and look for the English definition of the word.


All she needs to do now is choose up to five key taboo words from the definition, such as…

-tall    -building    -stories    -height    -office

… and write them on the card.

If your students do not have Internet access, they can still think of key taboo words for each of the guessing words.

Once the students have completed the task, collect the cards and set up groups of 4 students per group and distribute cards. When the groups run out of cards, they can switch cards with other groups.





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