First Certificate Mad Libs

In this activity, students fill in the blanks in the text with the appropriate type of word. Each blank notes what kind of word should go there: noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. This activity is based on a popular party game, Mad Libs, and is suitable for FCE students who need more practice differentiating between various parts of speech.

The Task

Step 1

You need to choose two texts before the class and prepare copies for your students. I have been using actual FCE word formation exercises. Below, you will find an example of exercises taken from the Complete First Workbook (Text A is from page 43 and Text B from page 46). Copy the texts filling in the gaps with appropriately formed words. Make sure to leave the spacing between the lines at least 2.0. Next, prepare copies of the actual exam task, one per student. You will also need correction pens / Tipp-Ex / Liquid Paper to distribute among your students.

Step 2

Distribute Text A to one part of your class and Text B to the other. Students work in pairs or individually. Their task is to create 8 gaps in the text they had received. They should look for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to white out from the text.

Before they erase the word with a correction pen, they need to make sure they know what part of speech it is (teacher’s assistance might be needed at this point). When they erase the word, they need to leave a note saying what part of speech goes in the gap. With these particular texts I enclose here, I asked my students to focus on nouns, adjectives, and adverbs as these were the types of words the tasks originally required them to form.

The rules are:

  • don’t erase more than one word per line
  • double check you know what part of speech it is and leave a correct note next to the gap
  • you might add extra info to your notes (plural noun, opposite adjective, etc.)
  • keep the list of the erased words in order on a separate piece of paper/ in your notebook

Monitor the activity and make sure students aren’t erasing words which would be very difficult to fill in.

Step 3

Students who worked with Text A swap their worksheets with those who did Text B and fill in the gaps following the notes and paying attention to the general meaning of the passage. When they are finished, allow some time for students A and B to get together and compare their answers with the list of the original words taken out of the texts.

What is important here is not that the students come up with the exact missing word but rather that they manage to fill in the gap with the required type of word. Let your students be the judges of that when they assess their own and their peers’ work. Ask them to look for some patterns: are there common suffixes for the nouns /adjectives / adverbs they used/erased? How do they know the word is a noun /adjective/adverb ?

Step 4

Tell your students that the texts they had been working with are actual Use of English exam tasks. Since they had some time to get familiar with both, they should find it easier to do the exercise. Distribute the copies of the actual exam task. Your students might already remember the texts quite well and be able to fill in the gaps in the exercise without looking at the words in bold, which is fine for the moment.

Correct the exercises and discuss the answers with the whole class. Together look for patterns the same parts of speech might have in common, examine the ways in which nouns turn into adjectives etc. At this point, try to draw your students’ attention to the form more than  the meaning.

I have been experimenting with making the Use of English exam paper more engaging for my students for some time now. Check out my posts about word formation and key word transformation.

Personal Experience

I decided to experiment with this activity when I noticed my students had lots of difficulties deciding wich part of speech various words were. They had vague ideas about suffixes like -ment or -ship signifying nouns but not more than that. So far, I have tried this activity with two groups I teach and both were quite enthusiastic, especially about the first part of the activity. They liked the idea of deciding which words to remove from the text, trying to make it difficult for the others to fill in. They paid  attention to identifying parts of speech they were erasing and were quite inquisitive when checking the others’ answers (confirming once and for all that the word CHOOSEMENT doesn’t exist). I didn’t expect them to get very enthusiastic about doing the actual exam task, but since they were able to recall a number of words from the previous stages of the activity, their scores were considerably better.

During the following class, I revised the words we had created to see how much they remembered I was nicely surprised. I think the fact they worked with the same texts in different ways helped them memorise more word forms which was the ultimate goal of this activity.


Texts for students to erase words from Text A, Text B


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