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Word Association‏‎

An upturned ink bottle with words falling out.Word Association is a simple 5 minute activity for the end of a lesson. It gets students talking and thinking about vocabulary‏‎.

Explain to your students what word association is: when you hear a word, you say another related word that pops into your head.

The difference with this game is that you might be asked to explain the association between the two words so your students have to think hard and fast and make sure the words are related. And of course, no repetition of words.

Running the Activity

Choose a word at random (you might like to write it up on the board, especially if the class is of a lower level).


Now choose a student at random (using lolly sticks is ideal for this task) and ask them for a related word; encourage them to respond as quickly as possible and write it on the board.


Pause long enough for the word to sink in with the class and allow them time to think of a new, associated word, and then point to another student at random (again, using the lolly sticks makes this faster and more random) and that student has to give a word associated with the previous and so on.

Any time a student comes up with what seems like a major non sequitur you can challenge them to explain the association.

T: elephant
S1: grey
S2: suit
S3: businessman
S4: Toy Story
T: Toy Story?! What’s the link there?
S4: well, er, um… I don’t know

Variations on a Theme

  • scoring can be introduced and teams as well
  • if a student is challenged for an association and comes up with an inventive one they win a round of applause, etc
  • you make the goal of the game to reach a certain word; in other words you give them two very unrelated words and the student who can legitimately say the second word in association with a previous word wins

See Also

Anti-Word Association‏‎ – an ESL activity based on the opposite of this one.

Image © Aan Cleaver

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