Vocabulary Game: Pass The Bomb

This vocabulary game has been one of my students’ favourite for some time now. It is based on the popular word game Pass the BombIt helps with spelling and broadens students’ vocabulary in an entertaining way. I often use this vocabulary game with FCE, CAE, and upper-intermediate students. It is a great way to either start or finish the lesson.

The Game

This vocabulary game may be played in pairs or groups (no more than 4 students). Each pair / group needs a dice and a stack of cut up letter cards, placed on the table face down. The aim is to make words which include the letters printed on the card. Students take turns rolling the dice and picking one card at a time. The dice determines the location of letters in each word the students need to make. You should put these rules on the board:

1,2 – letters may not be used at the start of the word

3,4 –  letters may be used anywhere in the word

5,6 –  letters may not be used at the end of the word

Example: a student rolled 6 and picked up a card saying “BAT”, meaning they need to use the letters either at the start or in the middle of the word. Possible words include “Batman”, “bathtub”, “bathroom”, “battle”, “debate”, “celibate”, and so on.

Each correct word = one point. The game goes on until there are no cards left. To make it more difficult, you might ask the students to time each other, allowing 10 seconds to come up with each word (this is where a ticking bomb played a crucial role in the original version of the game). It usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes.

Once the game is over, make sure to go over the most problematic letter clusters (TIG, ROD, WER, URN) and brainstorm as many words and combinations as possible. It’s a good idea to have several words ready (one time it took me a while to realise there is more to TIG than “tiger” and “tights”: “instigate”, “uptight”, “vertigo” and so on. This website might come in handy ).

For more vocabulary games see this word formation game called Beep.

Personal Experience

Since we all love some competition now and then this vocabulary game works great with all ages and levels. It is really fun and offers plenty of opportunities to revise both vocabulary and spelling.


Pass The Bomb



  1. Tried this with two business classes, one upper intermediate and one lower intermediate. Upper intermediate weren’t super fazed, but I think they enjoyed. Lower intermediate were scared of it being too difficult to find words, but they all did really well, and it was nice seeing them gain confidence as the game went on.

    Did this as well with my weaker PET class, and they absolutely loved it. First time I EVER had students stay after class to keep playing a game, and if I hadn’t stopped, they would have kept playing. Students asked to play it again at the end of the next class, today. Warmed my heart. Thanks a million again.

    • I’ve been using this game mostly with FCE and CAE students as a means of improving their spelling and some groups took to it faster than others. I’m really glad to hear your PET students liked it so much. It’s a great feeling to see our students engaged, isn’t it!

  2. I just did this but extended it by telling them to imagine and write a story that contained their words. They were then swapped and peer checked and read out loud to the class, it worked brilliantly, we then acted out each story, they were so bizarre, it was great fun and they loved it.

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