Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vocabulary Highlighter Game

Exams are coming up in a few weeks for my students, so every day this week, I have been trying to do some quick vocabulary review activities (such as Hot Seat and Quick Draw) that will both engage students in order to prepare them for the exam and will not take up more than 15 minutes of time. This is a popular activity which I learned from a colleague at my former school. Though not necessarily a CI activity per se, it is quick and engaging for students, and it involves highlighters!

For this, you will need to create a word cloud of vocabulary words which you want to review. I have found that 25 words is a good amount. Unfortunately, finding a website/extension for the creation of word clouds has been difficult, because many websites like Wordle do not work on Chrome or are not compatible with Windows 10. I use a MS Word extension to create my word clouds. Google Docs also has an extension for word clouds, but I have found that MS Word has more capabilities.

Below is a video for creating a word cloud on MS Word.

In creating a MS word cloud for this activity, I use the following settings:
  1. Font: Arial
  2. Colors: Black on White
  3. Layout: Half on Half (this will allow for words to be both horizontal and vertical)
  4. Case: Intelligent
Here is a MS word cloud which I made for my Latin 2 students

  1. Pair up students.
  2. You can have students either sit next to each other or across from each other.
  3. Students will need a common surface between them. It can be a desk, or if your class is deskless like mine, then I had students sit on the floor with a whiteboard between them.
  4. Each student in a pair needs to have a different-colored highlighter, i.e., no two students who are paired up can have the same color highlighter.
  5. Give each student a handout of the word cloud.
  6. There will be two different rounds of play, so have each pair of students use only one of the word clouds for the first round.
  7. Have each pair place the word cloud between them, and give students roughly 30-45 seconds to look at the words in order to familiarize themselves with both the words and the layout.
  8. You as the teacher call out a definition in English.
  9. The goal for each student is to be the first person to highlight the correct word.
  10. After about 9-10 words, now tell students that they have to use their NON-DOMINANT hands to highlight the correct word. Do this for about 9-10 words.
  11. After most of the words have been called, have students count how many words they each got correct. They will know based on the color of their highlighter. 
  12. To start the second round, students will now use the other word cloud.
  13. Tell students that they need to put this word cloud in a new orientation, i.e., if it was laid out horizontal before, now it needs to be vertical. This makes the second round more challenging, since although students know what words to expect, the words are in a "different place," since the orientation is different.
  14. Repeat steps 8-10 again.
  15. When finished, have students create their final totals for both rounds.
  1. As I said, this is a fast, quick activity. It lasts about 10 minutes. 
  2. Depending on your students, it can get VERY competitive.
  3. I have a tub of different-colored highlighters in the event that students have the same color or do not have a highlighter. I suppose one can use markers for this activity.
  4. Having students use their non-dominant hand for part of it adds to the novelty of the activity.
  5. Variation: Because vocabulary does not exist in a language isolated outside of a context, you can make a word cloud out of phrases in the target language. I know that Wordle will allow you to do this.
  6. It is not really a CI activity, but it is definitely fun to watch!


  1. Keith, agreed that the standard highlighter game isn't CI due to lack of complete messages, however, it's awesome for all the reasons you mentioned, and I use it along with the following more input-based version:

    1. Yep, I completely agree. Although Wordle does allow for the creation of "phrase clouds," due to compatibility issues (Chrome, Windows 10), I do not use that site any longer. Do you know of any other sites or add-ons for either Google Docs or MS Word which will allow for "phrase clouds"?

  2. How do you deal with the times a student highlights the wrong word?

    1. After each word I call in English, I will say the correct answer in Latin. If a student highlights the wrong word, then that student does not receive that point. The other student will gain a point for the wrongly highlighted word automatically when/if it is called.

  3. Thank you for this idea! I think my kids will really enjoy it. As a teacher new to CI, I REALLY appreciate ALL the ideas you share with us. :)