Someone who read my previous post asked me to expand a little on the Word Smuggling language learning idea that I mentioned at the end. In a way it’s a variation on the better known word game known as Taboo, where you ask someone to talk on a particular subject without actually using certain obvious and important words. Others listen and try to guess what the subject was. For example, explain the term ‘primary colours’ without saying red, yellow, blue, colour, mix or mixing. It forces you to think of alternatives and other more unexpected routes you would take in language in order to make yourself clear. All very good for language development.
Word Smuggling is in a way kind of the reverse of this game and well suited to any subject area. You give the participant a subject to talk about, this is likely to be in some way connected to your current lesson content, the idea is to use the language game to strengthen and deepen the understanding of content.
In my own lessons it might go a follows:
- give a pupil a particular artwork to describe and discuss, or maybe the experience of a recent trip to a museum (others in the group may see this example or theme for themselves)
- Give the same pupil a word on a piece of paper (this word must on no accounts be disclosed to the others in the group). The type word you choose to give to the pupil is very important to how well the game will work. It should not be directly or obviously related to the subject they are talking about. For example if the pupil has been given a Rembrandt self-portrait to talk about, try giving them a word such as ‘boat’ or ‘shopping basket’
- They then have to talk for a while to the others in the group about their theme or subject and somewhere in amongst all of what they are saying they have to try and use the word that they were given. They must try and do this in such a way that the others in the group are not likely to notice it as being particularly obvious.
- When the speaker has reached the end of what they have to say the rest of the group have to try and guess what the secret word was.
There are a couple of extra points to make about the game, it is of course forbidden to include lists of random words in what is said in order to conceal the word that way!
This is actually a relatively difficult language game for learners of a younger age. If I try it with the twelve year olds I teach, in their first year of learning English, their limited vocabulary is rather a restricting factor. Although having said that, with twelve year olds perhaps an even bigger restricting factor is their inability not to give the word away simply through the look on their face when they say it!