Apples to Apples Vocabulary Game

Apples to Apples Vocabulary Game

Apples to Apples Vocabulary Game

Skills: Listening/speaking
Time: 30+ minutes, including deck-building
Level: Intermediate to Advanced, age 9+
Materials Required: Paper, pen/pencils, textbooks, and scissors

Apples to Apples is a vocabulary game in which players defend their choice of card played. This version is somewhat different than the actual Apples to Apples game, in order to increase speaking time. Before playing, students need to make two decks of cards using vocabulary words. This is best done at the end of a semester or book, so that there are more words to play with. You may also want to encourage them to brainstorm words they’ve learned previously.

For deck-building, divide the students into at least two groups: nouns and adjectives. If you have a large class, you may wish to further divide them, for example, into person, place and thing groups. The groups should compile as many nouns and adjectives as they can. To keep the two decks easily identifiable, you may wish to use two colors of paper or blank and ruled paper, which has been cut into 8-10 pieces.

When the groups have finished creating their cards, collect them, keeping the nouns and adjectives separate. Divide the class into groups of 5-8 students and have each group pick a judge. This person will be in charge of the decks of cards and also will have to choose the winner of each round. Each judge should be given an equal share of the two decks.

Have one group help you play a demonstration round in which you are the judge. Deal each group member five noun cards. Turn over one adjective card and have each student choose the noun card in their hand that best matches the adjective and give it to you. Read each of their cards and have them explain why their word is the best match. When all students have spoken, announce which card is the winner, and why.

Have the judge in each group deal five noun cards to their groups and turn over/display one adjective card per round. Each player must choose the noun card in their hand which they feel best matches that adjective and give it to the judge. The judge takes all of the noun cards and shows each card one at a time. Each player must defend their card when the judge shows it.


If the judge draws the word big, the other students may submit nouns like watermelon, elephant, heart, and day. The students could then defend their choices with a single sentence:

A: A watermelon is a big fruit.
B: An elephant is a big animal.
C: A kind person has a big heart.
D: An important day is a big one.

The students should then be encouraged to keep talking in order to convince the judge that their answer is the best.

When all players have spoken, the judge will decide the winner of that round. Each player will be given one more noun card by the judge. The judge will then give both decks to the winner of the round who becomes the new judge. He/she turns over the next adjective card to start the next round. If there are not many cards (vocabulary words) to play with, you may want to mix the discards back in to the live decks.

Like this Game?

It’s from: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Kids (7+)

Teaching Tip:

While you can save a fair bit of class time by preparing the decks yourself, you can sneak in a bit of parts of speech review for students if they have to make the cards themselves. Additionally, as they are compiling the decks, students are also likely to come across words they have forgotten. This gives them a chance to discuss vocabulary with their teammates before the game begins (at which point their teammates will have little incentive to help.)


  1. Before class, prepare cards by cutting sheets of colored printer paper into 8-10 pieces. Two different colors should be used.
  2. Divide students into groups to build two decks of cards: nouns and adjectives. Students should use their textbooks and also brainstorm as many words as they can and write one word per card.
  3. When the decks are ready, divide the students into groups of 5-8.
  4. Divide the two decks equally between the groups, keeping the two separate.
  5. Have one group come to the front of the class to demonstrate. You will be the judge.
  6. Turn over one adjective card. Have your group look at their cards, choose the noun that best matches the adjective, and give it to you.
  7. Read each noun card and the student who gave it to you must defend their choice (see example above). Choose the best answer and tell the class why.
  8. Have each group play rock-scissor-paper to choose the first judge for their group and play one round.
  9. After each round, each player is dealt a new noun card, and the winner becomes the new judge (or you can have them rotate in a circle.)
  10. Used cards can be mixed back into the decks if there aren’t many cards

Like this fun vocabulary game? It’s from the book: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Kids (7+). Get 38 more ESL speaking activities for kids.

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