The Categories Game – for reviewing vocabulary and a handy time filler

The Categories Game is one of those essential activities that you can pull out of your bag (although no materials are needed) and will nicely fill up a 20-40 minute slot if you find your material is running out before the end of the lesson. I’ve played this game with students of all ages and levels and it has always been a success.

This team game is based on the popular party game Scattergories and is perfect for reactivating vocabulary.

Play online

If you are teaching online, there is a handy online version of Scattergories .

Possible categories

Here’s a list of categories which you could use when playing the categories game: countries, games and sports, cities, animals, food and drink, verbs, adjectives, jobs, famous people, things you find in the bathroom/kitchen, things you take on holiday, fruit and vegetables, things that fly, things that are yellow, items you can buy in IKEA, things you find in a refrigerator, things that are cold, things you find in an office, things that are round, things which are scary, things to do with Christmas, things with wheels, things in the garden, things you can turn off, etc.

How to play the categories game

Divide the board into six squares and at the top of each square write a category heading.

categories game
Categories – click to enlarge

Divide the class into two or three teams and have them think up team names. Give each team a blank sheet of paper and ask them to create an answer sheet by copying the category layout on the board.

Choose a letter of the alphabet. Write it next to your table so you don’t repeat yourself later.

As quickly as possible teams must try to think of a word that fits each category and which begins with the given letter. They should write their answers under the appropriate category on their answer sheet.

For example, if category headings include Animals and Drinks, and the letter you’ve chosen is B, teams might write Bear and Beer in the appropriate categories. The game can be made more difficult by choosing more challenging letters.

As soon as a team has a word for every category they should shout stop! The other team(s) must immediately stop writing and put their pens down.

Take the answers from the first team to finish and give a point for each word that fits correctly, then collect the answers from the other teams and award further points. If there are allegations of cheating you can always check the teams’ answers on their answer sheets. The team with the most points at the end of x rounds is the winner.

One way to score the game is to make marks inside the category square for each correct answer. Either use a different colour for each team or use a different symbol, e.g. I,O,X.


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