Games / Revision / Warmers and Plenaries

Keyword Hangman


I’d like to share with you a quick starter or plenary activity that can be used to revise vocabulary.

Being very busy, I love activities that can be adapted and used with most of my groups. As inspiring as I want my lessons to be, sometimes finding tailor-made activities for each group is impossible! Therefore, I like to select some adaptable games and activities each week. This way, in my hectic teaching schedule, I know I’ve got at least a few minutes at the start of a lesson not only to settle my students, but also myself! If like me, you teach a variety of levels and ages, this activity will allow you to have a few minutes respite whilst still being in teacher mode!

For this version of Hangman, we don’t draw the traditional image. Instead, we use a point system.

Point System:

1 1 letter
5 5 word
10 10 definition



1.) Draw the point system on the board. Explain this to your students.

Letters:For every letter they get correct, they win 1 point. For every incorrect letter, they lose a point.

Words:If they want to guess the word (they can at any stage), they win 5 points if they guess correctly. If they guess incorrectly, they lose 5 points.

Definition:Once they know the word, the last team who guessed the word or letter, gets the first opportunity to give a definition and use it in a sentence for 10 points. If they get it wrong, they lose 10 points and the other team/teams get to play for 10 points.

How I play:

Each team takes it in turns to say a letter. If their letter appears in the word, they get a point. VARIATION: If a word has two or more letters, you can either write all the letters and give them the points accordingly. For example:

_ _ _ (the secret word is ZOO)

Team A: says ‘O’.

_ O O  (I write both and give Team A 2 points)



+ 2

Alternatively, you can just write one letter at a time. If you choose to write one letter at a time, explain that they can repeat the letter later in the game. This way takes a bit longer but it engages their brains more.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (the secret word is SETTLEMENT)

Team B: says ‘E’

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ E _ (it doesn’t matter if you write the letters out of sequence)

If your students think they know the word before all the letters have been written up, they can take a risk for 5 points. If they get the answer correct, write 5 points in the ‘+’ column. If they get it wrong, they lose 5 points. Write this in ‘-‘ column.

For example: Using our secret word SETTLEMENT, Team B says EMPLOYMENT… Oh no! They lose 5 points!

Team B:


– 5

If they say the correct word – SETTLEMENT, they now get the first opportunity to give a definition and use it in a grammatically correct sentence for 10 points.

If they get it right…Hurray!

If they get it wrong… Oh no! They lose 10 points and the other team gets the opportunity to play for 10 points.

You can play this game more than once. You could even get students to take it in turns to write a secret keyword on the board.

At the end of the game, I like to get my students to do the maths and calculate their scores. Some may end up with a score of -20!

I can’t remember where I got this idea from. I picked it up when I was teaching in the UK.

I hope you enjoy it!

One thought on “Keyword Hangman

  1. Pingback: Keyword Hangman | Facts of fashion

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