Toy hammer.jpg

This is designed for Listening and Speaking and is good for Elementary schoolJunior High and Senior High.


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Vocab. Mallet is a fabulous game to use either as a warm-up or as a vocabulary revision game. For those of you who were little children in the U.K. in the '80s, this will be recognisable to you as a game from Saturday morning T.V. For those of you who have no idea who Timmy Mallet is, read on and learn...


  • a class of students
  • 2 rubber hammers (ideally ones that make a noise when hitting something)
  • vocab. categories you want to work on


This is how I play with relatively small JHS classes with just under 30 students, although the size of the class doesn't really make a difference - you could play this game with just two students.

  • Divide the class in half, one half with your JTE, one with you. Then, depending on class size, divide those two groups so that they are now four groups. You still keep your half. The students form two lines each side. You play the game with your half of the class at the same time as your JTE is playing with their own half.
  • The two students nearest you go first. They janken to see who gets to go first. Once this has been established give them a category (for example "vegetables", or even something easy like "food"). Starting with whomever won, the two students have to say one vocabulary word each, turn by turn, that would fall into the category you gave them. With the category "colours" (and actually with a lot of the categories I gave them) they came up with some that even I hadn't thought of - sky blue, magenta, silver... Inside those heads is a lot of useless knowledge - let them get it out!! The categories that you and your JTE are using need not be the same, you basically play individually with the students in your group.
  • The rules are that students are not allowed to stammer, repeat what has already been said, or stall. The other students enjoy it because whomever slips up first gets bopped on the head (or arm or wherever) and has to go over to the JTE's line. So you get the winners and the JTE gets the losers, or vice-versa. You can also play so that the winner stays on and the loser switches line, it doesn't make a huge difference, but if you play so that the students just play one game each before someone else has a go then you can make sure that everyone is playing.

There is no ultimate "winner" in this game, although if you adjusted it slightly you could have some sort of championship, but the students get really into it anyway. Also, if you run out of ideas for categories, try getting the students to turn away from the class and give you their classmates names - causes a riot when they can't think of anyone! You can use the same categories more than once as each student will come up with different words.

This game works really well even with quiet classes because they love to see classmates (gently!) abused by the teachers and see people trying really hard and not quite making it when they stammer etc. It is also good because you are in control without actually having to take part or do any speaking - if you want to give a slower student more time you can, if you want to get rid of the class nuisance then just bop them after only a second or so of thinking time! The game encourages students to think fast and to go through all of their vocab. - they never knew that knowing the word "maroon" would be so useful!


Thetamdog, February 2007