Copyright © 2014 Emma Gore-Lloyd

You don’t actually need a bucket for this activity. You could use a basket, a box, an envelope, a mug, etc. It’s a game taken from one of my major sources of inspiration – improvencyclopedia – and  is a great way to practice vocabulary with higher levels.  Students win points for using new vocab (with my class, it was idioms and expressions) in role play situations.

To play the game, you need a bucket (or basket, or envelope, or whatever you’ve got) of sentences. We had been studying expressions from a listening about sight and art, for example, a sense of colour, magnum opus, in the public eye, look someone in the eye, etc. I printed some unfinished sentences using these phrases which I gave to the students to add the final word or words that would complete the sentence. Some examples:

  • She’s in the public eye because…
  • He doesn’t see eye to eye with …
  • He looked me in the eye and said…
  • “…” is her most influential work

I gave them out to the students to complete, then we collected them in and put them in a bucket (it wasn’t a bucket, but that’s the name of the game).  Two students were volunteered to go first. They sat together at the front of the class by the whiteboard and were given a situation, for example, you are two art critics, or you are an art teacher and a parent of a pupil, you are a journalist interviewing an artist, and so on. (I had prepared the situations and pictures, but you could get your students to suggest their own.) Their job was to talk about the picture projected on the board behind them, taking on these roles, for 2 mins. However, they had to take one slip of paper each from the bucket and try to use it in their conversation. If they were successful, they could take another. No passes allowed! The winner was the person who had used the most phrases by the end of the time.

My class are proficiency level – what other levels do you think would find this activity useful?


  1. Gareth Butt · · Reply

    Excellent idea Emma! I like the ‘no passes’ policy and the timing. A really good way to stretch higher levels.
    I use a similar idea with seminar practice for EAP lessons at Bristol: students have to use as many key function phrases on cards as they can in a timed seminar discussion. It helps the less outgoing students chip in and encourages everyone to participate.

  2. Adrienne · · Reply

    A lovely idea, and I agree that adding the element of time is really useful. What are the other students usually doing while the two in the front of the room are talking? Do you find that they pay attention, or do you give them tasks (timing, keeping score, deciding if the phrase was used correctly, etc.)?

    1. Good question, Adrienne! My class is really small, so the other students were listening to check that the phrases were used appropriately and also take care of the timing. They were certainly paying attention and laughing at the improvised conversations. It felt like a good group activity. If you had a larger class, you could split them into smaller groups so that more people have a more active role more of the time.

  3. Jaja de szupi 🙂

  4. […] You don't actually need a bucket for this activity. You could use a basket, a box, an envelope, a mug, etc. It's a game taken from one of my major sources of inspiration – improvencyclopedia – and …  […]

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