Duration: 15–25 min
Aim: Oral fluency practise
Summary: The typical "twenty questions"-style guessing game, confined to small groups.


Guessing games can generate a lot of spontaneous speech, even if much of it is fairly simple in structure. To implement a guessing game as a speaking activity, working as a whole class offers too little opportunity for each student to speak, but working in pairs may often leave the lone guesser stumped for ideas. Groups of about 4 seems to be the ideal size, with one person as the "knower" and the other group members guessing.


The range of topics for guessing games is wide, so the game can be tailored to match the theme of the class. Some examples are given in the Resources section. If you devise your own topic, please share your ideas with the rest of us by posting in the Comments section.

Prepare a sheet with all the items, make enough copies for every group, and chop the sheets into pieces (one item per slip). Make a set for each group, each set containing one copy of each item, and place the sets into envelopes.

Write an additional one or two items on slips of paper and place them in a separate, marked envelope to use during the demo.


First explain the game, emphasising that the knower is only allowed to answer "yes" or "no".
Demonstrate the activity, by asking one student to come from the front, draw the slip from the special "demo" envelope, and answer questions from the class.

Explain that students will work in groups, taking turns to draw a slip from the envelope. Check:

What words can the person with the slip of paper say? ("yes" or "no")
The materials can be collected after the activity and reused in a different class.


When I first tried this activity I was worried that groups might overhear one of the answers from another group. But in practice, amid the noise that this activity generates, this is not a big problem.

If some groups finish early, you can ask them to take turns thinking of another item for their group members to guess. Alternatively, you could keep a few extra guessing items on hand to give to them. This way, the faster groups have something to occupy them, while the slower groups can still have the satisfaction of eventually finishing the whole envelope.