ESL word building activity

This is a great ESL word building activity that is adaptable for classrooms of students of all ranges of speaking abilities.

Lesson aims

  1. By the end of the lesson students will be better able to identify common word patterns in order to build different word forms from root words. 
  2. By the end of the lesson students will be better able to construct sentences selecting the appropriate word form.


  1. I will know the lesson aims have been achieved if students are able to correctly identify both positive and negative adjective and adverb form using the noun form for a variety of different words. 
  2. I will know the lesson aims have been achieved if the students are able to construct sentences using different word forms appropriately.

Materials needed

  1. Whiteboard or something to display rules to all the students – They will need to refer to it often.
  2. Dice 
  3. Pen and paper – optional
  4. Slips of paper with vocabulary written on it – optional


This activity is going to be shown as a consolidation activity. Pre-teaching of target language and forms would need to be done before you can do this activity. 

I have written this lesson plan for classroom use, but it can easily be adapted for one-to-one and self-study use. 

Select whichever target language you would like. I like to select words that have both positive and negative adjective and adverb forms. I originally got this game from English File (EF) Intermediate 3rd Edition p.87 & 163 and modified it slightly. 


  1. After pre-teaching vocabulary for spelling and pronunciation you set the students up into groups of 3’s (you can do bigger or smaller depending on numbers but in general 3 is a good size group). 
  2. On the whiteboard write: 1= Noun, 2= + adjective, 3= – adjective, 4= + adverb, 5= – adverb, 6= FREE. 
  3. Explain to the students that they will get a dice. Each number of the dice corresponds to a different type of word. 
  4. Students take turns rolling the dice. Whichever number they land on, they must make a sentence using the word correctly in the sentence. EX: Student rolls a 3= – adjective. “I am very uncomfortable in this chair.” (They can write this beforehand if they want.)
  5. The other students judge if the sentence makes sense and if the student has used the word appropriately. Teacher will need to monitor and be the final judge where needed. If the other students deem the sentence correct, the student gets a point.
  6. The next student repeats the process. You can either play this for time or until a student scores X amount of points. I usually do it for time, around 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the group and the level. 

Alternative versions

  1. You can have a bucket with all of the target language on slips of paper. After the students roll the dice they need to take a slip of paper and repeat the procedure now using that specific word. This is a nice alternative because it forces the students to use different words. Often when given the choice they will tend to pick the words they are most familiar with. 
  2. If you want to make it more challenging, you can add a second dice. The procedure would then look like this:
    1. Roll the dice to see which word form they need to use. EX: 2= + adjective
    2. Select the word they are using- either by slips or self-chosen 
    3. Roll the second dice (or roll the dice again) and take the total of both dice rolls. 

EX: 1st roll= 2, 2nd roll= 5– Total=  7

  1. Students then need to make a sentence with the correct word form and make a sentence using seven words. 

EX: “I am very comfortable doing this activity”

  1. Scoring is the same as before, but now students have to adhere to the word limit as well. 

Follow up

There are a number of follow up activities you can do after this game. Some of them could be:

  1. Have each student research one new word for homework. Next lesson, create a table and have each student write their homework on the board. 
  2. Have students use one of the sentences they created during the game and write a short narrative
  3. The group can use one of the sentences they created and act it out for the class. The class can try to guess what the sentence was. 
  4. Story chains: One student creates a sentence using one of the target vocabulary, the next student needs to continue the story using a different target language word and so on. Again, I would suggest keeping this to small groups, If the groups are too large, students will have too much idle time.