ICAL TEFL Courses & Resources

Talking Dictionaries‏‎

To read about working here, see Teaching English in Africa.

Students learning English are often described as Beginners, Intermediate or Advanced. Roughly speaking this is their level, i.e. how much English they know, how well they can speak and understand and so on.

For more, see Learner Levels‏ in TEFL.

A Noun is a major part of speech; a good, general, definition of a noun is that it is something which is used to name an object or thing:

car, door, elephant...

For more, see Nouns in English Grammar.

A Flashcard is a small card with a picture on it. It may also have the name of the picture on the reverse. They are incredibly useful in the TEFL classroom and well worth using; often teachers will make their own.

For more, see Flashcards‏‎ and TEFL.

Adverbs tell us more about nouns or verbs, etc.

Adverbs of Degree tell us how much: Is there enough wine?

Adverbs of Frequency tell us how often: I never eat meat.

Adverbs of Time tell us when: I saw him last Sunday.

Adverbs of Manner tell us how: She dances badly.

Adverbs of Place to tell us where: I saw him at the cinema.

For more, see Adverbs in English Grammar.

An Adjective is a word we use to describe a noun:

big, red, boring book

For more, see Adjectives‏‎ in English Grammar.

Toddler with huge dictionary.Talking Dictionaries or Describing Words is a simple word game which teaches students how to describe words. It's a useful skill which lets students talk about something they do not necessarily know the correct word for.


Either on slips of paper or flashcards, have a number of nouns ready which are of suitable level for your class. They can be almost any word but obviously concrete nouns are easier than abstract nouns.

With more advanced classes you can also move on to other classes of words such as adjectives or adverbs. However, since the words will need to be described make sure this is possible and easily understood.

Running the Activity

In class you can play this as a team game. Divide the class into several teams of, say, 4 or 5 students each. Then you begin to demonstrate what to do. Choose a word at random and describe it to the class.

Simply put, you cannot say the word on the card, you can't make any noises or sounds, you can't use your hands to demonstrate shape or size; you can just speak. In effect, you are a talking dictionary.

For example, suppose you pick out the word ELEPHANT.

It's a large grey animal. It's got a long nose. It weighs several tonnes. It lives in Africa and India.

The first person to call out the word on the card wins a point.

Once you've demonstrated it to your class, you can have students take turns in coming up, choosing a word and then describing it to everyone. Again, the team that gets it first wins (and if the student accidentally says the words or breaks one of the describing rules then a point is deducted from their team).

Image © The Kids and Kahlie
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