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Posted on September 15, 2011 by kierandonaghy

This EFL lesson is designed around Words a beautiful and intelligent short film made by Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante for Everynone which plays a game of word association while barely using any spoken language. The lesson practises a lot of vocabulary through collocation and word association, and uses the online graphical dictionary Visuwords.



I would ask all teachers who use Film English to consider buying my book Film in Action as the royalties which I receive from sales help to keep the website completely free.



Language level: Upper-intermediate (B2.1)  – Advanced (C1)

Learner type:Teens and adults

Time: 90 minutes

Activity: Watching a short film, vocabulary activities and writing

Topic: Word association

Language: Word association and collocation

Materials: Short film and vocabulary worksheet

Downloable: words lesson instructions     word association activity

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Step 1

Write play on the board and ask your students to work in small groups and to come up with as many meanings and collocations as they can for the word both as a verb and a noun in 5 minutes.


Step 2

After 5 minutes get feedback from each group, and write up the words in the form of a concept map.

Here’s an example of a very simple mind map.

Step 3

Show students this short video on Visuwords an online graphical dictionary which is great for showing the relationship between words.


Then go to the visual dictionary Visuwords , enter play and look at the results and compare them with your concept map.


Step 4

Give each group one or two of the following words depending on the number of students you have:

blow, break, split, run, fly, fall, light, space

Ask them to do the same as they did in Step 1: come up with as many meaning and collocations for the word, and to create a concept map to show the relationship between the words.


Step 5

Get feedback from your students. Ask one member of each group to present their concept map to the rest of the class.


Step 6

Tell your students they are going to watch a film called Words  which plays a game of word association using the 9 words they’ve been working on in class while barely using any spoken language.

Show them the film, and ask them to look for any of the meanings and collocations which they came up with in steps 1 and 4.



Step 7

Get feedback from you students. Show them the film for a second time and see if they get any more meanings and collocations.


Step 8

Give your students the words association worksheet tell them to try and match the words. Next watch the film again and check the answers on the second and third pages.



Ask your students to write a story in which they use a lot of the vocabulary which they’ve done in the lesson, they can choose the title of the story.


Follow Up

Give your students these links to help them improve their vocabulary learning:

Lingro is the best online dictionary I’ve seen, just enter a website address to make all the words on that page clickable and get a definition.

Just The Word  a great site for students who want to improve their use of collocation.

Snappy Words an online visual dictionary similar to Visuwords.

Knoword ia a great site for advanced students who want to broaden their vocabulary in a fun way.


I hope you enjoy this English language lesson.

Support Film English

Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

Monthly subscription

One-off payment

11 thoughts on “Words

  1. This was brilliant. So often I speak to my students about the power of words. When students think of powerful words they think of big SAT vocab words or they think of imagery/metaphor etc…

    Instead I want them to think of the power of a simple and pure word. A word like light or run. This video will help.

    One more thing. When I look up the word collocation, I’m still not entirely sure how the definition fits into what is happening in the film. Can you explain the term and its use in the film just a little bit.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks a lot for your kind comments. “Collocation” means words that habitually appear together and thereby convey meaning by association, so in the film it refers to these common association between the verbs and nouns and prepositionswhich convey meaning. For example, you see a couple breaking up, a phone signal breaking up, a some playing the trumpet, someone playing a game. I hope that helps.
      All the best,

  2. Thank you. I have enjoyed using this with advanced students. It’s simple but challenging and there are great links to websites to facilitate independent learning. My students have really appreciated the useful dictionary websites; lingro is great for academic students and one Iraqi lady in the UK for her Phd in pharmacy has found it especially useful in supporting her course work.
    Great website. I find your lessons inspiring, many thanks.

  3. Hi Kieran,

    This lesson looks brilliant and really exciting! I haven’t yet used it with a class, but just wanted to say that I personally find these topics to be very inspiring (mind maps, cognitive psych, word associations) and I truly appreciate your work and generosity in making it available to others.

  4. Pingback: the most (?) unusual place to teach English | TeachingEnglishNotes

  5. Hi,

    I love your website. It is full of new ideas. I have used this video and the lesson plan in different classes and it has been very successful but I think a small thing should be changed. In the FALL section I think 2 friends are not sad because someone died, I think the girl falls into sleep. I might be wrong, what do you think?

    Thank you for sharing your creative ideas with us.


    • Hi Nina,
      Thanks a lot for commenting and for the kind words. You can interpret the images in lots of different ways, which is one of the beauties of the film.
      All the best,

  6. Dear Ciaran,

    I ,whole-heartedly,congratulate you on your creativity level. I could finally open some space to utilize this video lesson in class. I am teaching university students at the intermediate level and it appears that the lesson plan worked flawlessly for my level students. Before I close my words, I would like to direct you a couple of questions with respect to the lesson-planning process. How do you choose the videos? How long does it take you to create one lesson plan? I am a visual learner myself and would be grateful if you could elaborate on the lesson creation process. Extending my warmest thanks.