Taboo is a game that promotes description and circumlocution as pairs of students cue one another to say a designated word or phrase. Students produce sentence-level speech and questions as they try to explain a word or phrase to a partner.


  1. The teacher prepares Taboo game cards that contain targeted language chunks or expressions from a unit or lesson.

  2. The teacher divides the class into pairs and assigns students from each pair as either player A or player B.

  3. The teacher distributes Taboo cards to students designated as player A.  It is important that player B is unable to see what is on the card.  Player A serves as a presenter, describing the key language chunk by giving adjectives, examples, synonyms, antonyms, etc. while avoiding using the language chunk or any of the other words on the card.  Partner B may question the presenter as they try to guess the language chunk.

  4. Once player B has guessed the language chunk or expression, the teacher gives player B a new Taboo card and the process continues, with player B presenting and player A guessing the language chunk or expression.

Helpful Tips

  1. The Taboo cards should utilize not only single words, but focus on language chunks, phrases or other expressions.

  2. Before implementing the game, teach students helpful language chunks so they can stay in the target language (e.g.  "I don’t understand;"  "Please repeat the clue;"  "Can you tell me more;" "What is the opposite of…;" "What is a synonym;" etc.).

  3. Play one or two practice rounds to make sure that all students understand the rules  and expectations for the game.


  1. Vary the vocabulary expressions according to student proficiency levels.

  2. The teacher may play the role of a presenter, describing the targeted word or expression while avoiding 'taboo' words and phrases, while the students work individually to write the targeted expression on a small whiteboard.


  1. Taboo cards, each with a designated key language chunk or expression at the top and three to four words that the presenter cannot use when describing the designated language chunk or expression.

Sample Materials

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