Lesson:Vocabulary envelopes

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A class vocabulary envelope is a student-centred and cooperative system of recording and reviewing vocabulary and has numerous applications.


A vocabulary tab
  • At the end of each class, the teacher asks students to choose up to eight lexical items from the lesson that they would like to remember.
  • Alone or in pairs, the students then create vocabulary tabs on small squares of paper which should include any important specifics about the word or phrase they choose.
  • The teacher monitors the creation of the tabs, checking the accuracy and helping.
  • Once finished, all the tabs are put into a class envelope which accumulates up to eight tabs each lesson.
  • During subsequent classes, vocabulary games can be played with the tabs to review them. Games such as guess the word, mnemonics, charades and pictionary all work well.
  • During a course, the students may want to revise the contents of the envelope, throwing away any that have been memorized and clarifying any that are unclear.

Vocabulary tab games[edit]

Games you can do with vocabulary tabs

Logic pelmanism[edit]


  • Pairs or small groups are formed.
  • Tabs are arranged face-down in grids of 4X4 or more in front of the pairs/groups.
  • On taking a turn, a player turns over two tabs; in order to win them, s/he has to provide a true sentence which connects the two lexical items. For example, on turning over "slippery" and "martial arts", a student would need to form a sentence such as "when practising martial arts, it is best not to be near something slippery like a banana skin".
Note: instructions must be checked to avoid the production of definitions like "slippery is the opposite of sticky", independent examples such as "karate is a martial art" and meaningless sentences such as "karate is a slippery martial art".
  • The game continues and the winner is the player who holds the most pairs of tabs at the end.

Describe the word: time trial[edit]

This game is similar to guess the word as described on the vocabulary games page.


  • Small teams (or pairs) are formed and each are given a set number of vocabulary tabs, which they place in a pile face-down in front of them.
  • The teacher announces a short time-limit and on the word "go", the students take it in turns to pick up a tab and describe the word for their partner(s) to guess.
  • Once a member of the team correctly guesses the word, the team win the tab and the next player takes one and descibes the word.
  • If none of the team can guess the word, the player puts the tab at the bottom of the pile and takes another from the top.
  • When the time is up, the teams count up how many tabs they correctly guessed to find out which team has won.

Variation: can also be played in the 10 words only format, as detailed on the vocabulary games page.

Mad libs[edit]

This activity is similar to a PMI discussion, and is especially useful for activating advanced/lesser-used conjunctions such as "nevertheless", "that said", "in spite of" etc.


  • Each group of three students will need at least nine (previously studied) vocabulary tabs with different conjunctions on them.
  • Each group will need paper and a pen(cil) to keep score.


  • Discussion topics are mindmapped on the board.
  • Groups of three are formed and each group is given nine vocabulary tabs, which are dealt out to the members.
  • A topic is chosen and the groups hold a 3-5 minute discussion on the topic. During their discussion, the students should try to use the conjunctions on their tabs naturally; on successfully (read: correctly) using a conjunction, a student gets rid of the relevant tab.
  • When the time is up, any students with tabs remaining in their hand lose one point per tab held.
  • Delayed error correction follows, with special focus on those errors which are likely to be repeated in the next round.
  • The vocabulary tabs are shuffled and redealt; a new topic is chosen and the next discussion begins.
  • When enough rounds have been held, the student with the least amount of points against them is declared the winner.

Variation: To make the activity more competitive, after using a tab a player can offload it onto another player who will then have the incentive to offload it again before the game is up. Be prepared to police some very questionable conjunction usage with this version.

See also[edit]