Author: Deb Avery | Published on 1 May 2023


Read what a teacher says about this activity:

You don’t need many resources to play this activity, which is why I like it. I use it to introduce a new topic or to revise vocabulary I have taught. My learners are competitive and really enjoy playing this game in teams.

Stage 1: Prepare 

Select the word you want to use and write it on paper or card (one letter per card). 








Stage 2: Introduce

Say: ‘We are starting a new topic this week. Let’s play a game to introduce it. You will be detectives and try and work out what the topic is.’

Stage 3: Play

Choose one learner for every letter in the word (e.g. for ‘recycle’, select seven learners). Give each a letter card. Make sure the letters are in the wrong order as you hand them out.

Say: ‘Hold your card against your chest so that it is hidden. Come to the front of the class and stand with your back to the board. When I say go, turn your cards over so that your friends can see them.’

Y  E  E  C  R  L  C 

Tell the class to guess the word. They should instruct the card-holders to move places until the order of letters is correct (e.g. ‘John, swap with Fatima’).

Play the game until the word is in the correct order.

Turn this into a team game by having two sets of cards. Each team works in a different part of the room. The team that guesses first is the winner. 

Stage 4: Extend

Write a related jumbled word on the board. For example: trnivmoeenn (= environment). Make sure the word is challenging but not impossible.

Learners work in pairs. 

Say: ‘Work with your partner and see how many words you can make in three minutes using the letters from the word on the board.’ Elicit some examples (e.g. men, time, one, nine). Say: ‘Who can make the longest word?’

Learners feed back their words. Record them on the board using a mind map. If they haven’t found the whole word, begin writing it out until a pair guesses it (i.e. ‘E … N … V … I …. Yes it’s environment, well done’). 

Stage 5: End activity

Discuss the two words and ask what topic will be covered.

Ask: ‘What do you think we might learn? What do you already know about these topics?’

Vary the task by revising vocabulary that has already been covered. With younger learners, use shorter, more familiar words.


Mind map: A way of creating and organising ideas about a topic. One central topic is written in a circle and different, related ideas come out from the centre.  

Resources: Teaching and learning resources