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[Activity] Category Game

I really enjoy pulling this game out when I need a filler class or end of the year/semester, when your teacher asks you for a fun random activity. It's easy to play, and good for all level - even the ones who are so extremely low level, they just tend to sleep in class.

Class Preparation


Markers & Erasers


Let me explain the game first and how to get your class ready.

Divide your class into groups of 4-6 people. I would try not to go over 6 people, but if you think that will benefit the group in any way, you can make the call. 4 is usually my go-to number.

Explain to the class that you will tell them a category, and they must write one word on their whiteboard for each category. One word, one point. Here's the catch: you will not get the point if another group as the same word as your group. Just in case you're a visual learner, here's a diagram (on Paint, don't judge) with what I mean...

Let's say "Fruits" is our category for this round:

Group 2 and 4 both have 'kiwi', so they don't get a point.

Groups 1, 3 and 5 are safe and will get one point.

Please make sure your students understand this rule! Students may get frustrated mid-game if they realized they had a correct answer but unsure why they are penalized for it.

Move on to the next category, write the word with your group members, show the answer to the class. Repeat until time runs out.

Now, here's some categories I used in the past as a general knowledge type of game:

General Category Ideas

Food (fruits, drinks, etc)

*Vegetables that are __________ (eg, yellow, round)

Disney characters

USJ characters


Japanese anime title

English movies

Types of Clothes




Country names

Cities names

*you can increase the level of difficulty by adding adjectives to the categories similar to what I did

If you want it to be more of a review session with your students, you can give categories related more to your textbook or just English in general (eg, 4 word letter from Chapter x). Also, a problem you may run into is that the categories are too broad and no one is losing points for having the same answer. Here are some categories I like to use that usually guarantees putting a group or two in the lead:

Tiebreaker Categories

Arashi member names (or another 4 or 5-member band most of your students are familiar with)

Your Homeroom Teacher's names


A number between 1 to 5



1. To make the game much more engaging and involve students who really cannot care less about English, I always make my students draw a picture to accompany the word they write. 2 extra points for a drawing.

2. For the lowest of the low, I also reward 1 point if students write the katakana.

3. If you have higher level students, you might want to get the students to write more than one word. It might increase the chance of students losing points for the same answers.

4. If you cannot conjure a whiteboard, recycled paper works well too.

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