How to play ESL Taboo plus Ready-Made Game Cards

ESL Taboo is a simplified version of the popular board game. It’s a lively crowd-pleaser and it’s perfect for reviewing and reactivating vocabulary, as well as forcing students into speaking freely without over-analysing their output. See below for some ready-made, printable Taboo cards.

Also, check out picture taboo for a twist on this popular activity.

How to play Taboo

Make a list of vocabulary items you want to review, five to ten words per student depending on how long you want to play. Write each word on separate small squares of paper. Fold up each square and put them in a large easily accessible container such as a box or a hat. You can also use the ready-made game cards at the end of this article.

Put students into groups of four or five and get them to think up team names, write them on the board.

The first group elects a team member who comes to the front of the class where the box of words is.

The player takes a word from the container and tries to describe it to their teammates without actually saying the word or using their native language. If the word is successfully guessed then students put it to one side. If not the word goes back in the hat and the player takes another.

After 90 seconds sound a buzzer, count how many words were successfully guessed and mark them up on the board under the team name.

Continue until every team member has taken a turn (or two) in the describing role.

Provide lollipops for the team with the most points.

Taboo Game Cards

5 thoughts on “How to play ESL Taboo plus Ready-Made Game Cards

  1. Thanks for the idea and the document. I have a couple of students in private lessons and sometimes I see them together. I really want them to build up their vocabulary. This activity looks fun!

  2. I still can’t figure out how it works : if I understand well, a student from a team makes everyone guess, but if the other teams want to win, they will find the fewest words possible won’t they!?

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