Alias Words (also known as Don’t Say a Word!) is a flexible activity which can be used in many different ways with speaking activities.
The basic idea is that a Chosen Word cannot be used in the classroom and must be exchanged for another, nonsense, Alias Word. For example, the Chosen Word might be SCHOOL and when anyone needs to use this word, they must replace it with the Alias Word DINKLE (or any silly, madeup word).
What does this do? It helps students stay focused and think carefully before they speak. It makes students more careful in preparing their language and slows down the process of speaking.
First off you need to set the Chosen Word. You can do this for the entire lesson or perhaps just a short activity. Suppose you are running an activity where students need to answer questions about a text they have been studying. You might decide that the Chosen Word is HE and the Alias Word is BLUMP. Write up on the board:
HE > BLUMP
The class is divided into two teams, say boys and girls. A quick Q & A might go like this:
T: Gianni, who was Neil Armstrong?
Gianni: BLUMP was the first man on the moon.
T: Good. Maria, where was BLUMP from?
Maria: I think he was American?
And the boys get a point because one of the girls made a mistake and said the Chosen Word.
Aside from being good fun, the use of Alias Words means that students have to think very carefully before they speak. They must form their utterances and concentrate on what they are doing. When you use randomly ask students they need to pay careful attention to what you are saying to be able to answer properly and without losing a point.
If you decide to make the Chosen Word a part of speech it will also help students think on their feet to identify these (see below).
Variations on a Theme
Once the class are familiar with simple versions of this activity, you can introduce all kinds of variations.
- if you as teacher say the Chosen Word then both teams in the class score a point
- have more than one Chosen Word
- allow the Alias Words to be conjugated or declined as needed
- run the activity for the entire lesson with a simple word; or run if for a few minutes alongside another activity
- make the Chosen Word a part of speech so, for example, every single preposition is replaced by THID
I walked thid the room and saw that thid the table there was a ten dollar note.