Read what a teacher says about this activity:

‘Word tennis is a fun way for learners to practise vocabulary. It helps them think of words connected to a topic, or to focus on the spelling of words.’ 

Stage 1: Prepare 

Choose a category of vocabulary you want your learners to practise, e.g. colours, transport, jobs, types of food. Write the category on the board.  

Stage 2: Model  

Demonstrate the game with one strong learner or the whole class. An example for transport could be: 

Teacher: Car 

Learners: Plane 

Teacher: Bike 

Learners: Boat 

Teacher: Horse 

Learners: [no answer] 

Teacher: Yes, I win! 

Stage 3: Play 

Put the learners in pairs.

Say: ‘Take turns to say a word connected to the category. You have three seconds to think of your word. You can’t repeat a word. The winner is the last player to say a word from the category.’ 

Play the game. Circulate, monitor and help.  

Stage 4: Extend 

If you want you can: 

  • let learners play the same game again, but with a different partner  
  • let learners stay with the same partner, but the winner can choose a different category  
  • say: ‘Instead of a category play the game where each word must start with the last letter of the previous word. They don’t have to be in the same category.’ 

 Make sure when your learners play word tennis they don’t always play with the same partner. 


Category: A system for dividing things into different groups/types.  

Circulate: To move around the classroom to check what learners are doing, and if they need any help.  

Demonstrate: To show and explain how learners should do a task.   

Monitor: The way a teacher watches to see how well an individual, group or class is doing a particular task. 

Previous: Before or earlier. 

Make sure when your learners play word tennis they don’t always play with the same partner.