It’s in the Bag: A Sure Way to Teach Everyday Vocabulary

I must confess this activity was inspired by a baby shower game, but hey, you got to be open to all sources of inspiration when you’re looking for creative, meaningful activities to help language learners. The activity was born out of the need to teach ESL students how to talk about everyday objects from a paper clip to paper towels.  This can be used as part of a vocabulary lesson, or it can be prepared and kept on hand for when you have some extra time at the end of class. It can be adapted for almost any level.

STEP 1 – Select 4-5 common objects, and place each one in a separate paper bag. Number the bags.

STEP 2 – Pass the bags around the room. Students must reach one hand in the bag and guess the object based on touch not sight. They may not look in the bag or take out the object. They should write their guesses in their notebooks. If they do not know the name of an object, they can write its purpose next to the appropriate number.

STEP 3 – Collect the bags. Ask a volunteer to tell his/ her guess for bag #1. See if the class agrees. Pull out the object and confirm/ correct the guess. Write the word on the board. Encourage students to check their spelling of the word in their notebooks. Repeat this procedure for the remaining bags.

STEP 4 – Next to each word on the board, list possible actions one can perform with it. Again, encourage students to copy the information in their notebooks.


Paper clip = clip papers together

Paper towel = wipe the table, wipe up a mess, dust, clean a mirror

Battery = put in a battery, take out a battery, replace a battery

Key chain = hold keys, place a key on a key chain, keep keys on a key chain

STEP 5 – Erase the board, leaving only the names of the objects. Quiz the students. Give them a scenario, and let them offer advice using the name of the object and a specific action. You can put them in two teams. Award a point to the team that is first to correctly offer advice.


1. The clock on the wall isn’t working. It stopped working this morning.

= You should change the battery.

2. Oh no! Someone spilled coffee on the table.

= You can wipe it up with a paper towel.

3. I sometimes lose my house key and my mailbox key.

= You should keep them on a key chain.

4. I have homework from so many students that I mix all the papers up.

= You can clip all the papers for one class with a paper clip.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Chiew says:

    Excellent, Jennifer! I love it. Do you think I can re-publish it in my blog? With the proper credits, of course 🙂

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Certainly! I’m glad you like it. Have fun. 🙂

  2. Souad says:

    thanks ,it’s really good

  3. Sultan says:

    Thank you Jennifer for your wonderfull site. I just found it and enjoying it very much. I looked for someone who might do this kind of work for us , students of English… )

    1. I’m happy you’ve found a resource here. Thank you for commenting.

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