Last Man Standing


This is a revision activity and memory game for lexis. It’s a high-energy, fun activity that comes from General English and would be very suitable for a pre-experience group. It really gets the brain working and works well for both aural and logical learners. After playing it the first time students will understand the game and you can use it again and again.

It’s given here as a revision activity, but it works equally well as a warmer, in the middle to change the pace, or at the end as a filler. As the course goes on you can choose from a wider range of lexical sets, collocations, and functional phrases.


1 Decide first what you want to revise, but don’t tell the students. Choose one of these:

  • A lexical set of topic vocabulary (eg ‘marketing’ words)
  • A set of phrases for one business communication skill (eg phrases for ‘meetings’)

2 Ask all the students to stand up. Tell them that the student who is the ‘last man standing’ is the winner. Explain that you are going to start by saying a word (or phrase in the second alternative above) and that you will then go around asking each student for one. If their word fits the secret code chosen by yourself, all is good and they can remain standing. But if it does not fit the code, or they can’t think of a word, then they have to sit down.

Note: the first time you play the game you can tell the students the ‘code’ beforehand – eg say that all the words should relate to financial accounts. But after the first time don’t tell them the code (it’s part of the fun and is usually obvious).

3 Start with an easy example. For example, if you have been studying marketing in the last few lessons then say a word (or two-word collocation) that has come up in class, for example ‘focus group’. Indicate that the student to your left should now say something.

4 The students take turns round the room to think of and say a word that they hope will fit your secret ‘code’. Students can say anything they want – it doesn’t have to be a word or phrase from the materials you have been using. You will have to decide if the word fits the code or not – again, all part of the fun. Be careful about this: if your secret code is ‘marketing words’ then billboard, banner ad and sponsorship would all be fine, strategy and budget would be okay (perhaps with a warning by you that they are getting a little too general now), but business would not be acceptable – too general and able to be used for everything.

5 Continue round and round the class until there is only one person standing: the winner!

6 Play another round of the game straight away – there will be a lot of energy and laughter and also debate (about whether a word was accepted or rejected by you correctly). Students will definitely want another go. If you chose topic lexis last round, perhaps choose some functional phrases this round (eg your secret code is ‘phrases used in meetings’ or ‘phrases used on the telephone’).


From now on you can play the game on a weekly basis. Add more difficult patterns such as

  • Collocations. You say ‘money’ and students have to say a verb that goes with it, such as make, lose, spend, waste etc.
  • Stress patterns with words from a given word list. You say ‘analysis’ and they have to find and then say words from the list with the same number of syllables and stress pattern (oOoo), such as reliable, competitive, significant.