9 Fun Activities for Words with Opposite Meanings

By Alex Case
Stimulating communicative opposites practice

Teaching pairs like “humble”/ “proud” and “warm”/ “cool” is a great way of teaching both words without translation, and can also allow you to use a stack of stimulating communicative activities, some of which are explained here. There is also a whole article on this site of opposites games.

Opposites coin storytelling

Students take turns making two options for how a story continues like “He lives. He dies.” and “The princess is beautiful. The princess is ugly.” then flip a coin to see which way the story goes. Note that it can be a bit much to have to flip a coin for every line of the story, so it’s best to make a way of sometimes adding any line they like such as flipping first to decide “Own choice of line” or “Two options then flip to decide”.

Opposites storytelling options

This is the same as the activity above, but with the other person choosing which of the two opposite next lines of the story they want each time.

Opposites and things in common

Pairs of students try to make sentences that include both of them and opposites, as in “One of us likes team sports but the other prefers individual sports” and “We both have short hair and long beards”. If you want to score, they get one point for each thing which they come up with that is not true for any other pairs of students.

Opposites discuss and agree

Make a list of opposites which tend to be used in opinions like “annoying/ calming” and “excellent/ awful”. Students try to find things that they can agree on which match both words in a pair, e.g. that “We both think that bonuses are motivating and being mentioned in the company newsletter is demotivating”, perhaps with a list of suggested topics to help. You can tell them that the opinions must be related in some way, or just that they have to use both of the opposites in some way.

They could then have another stage where they read out some of their statements and get points for ones that other groups also agree with.

Opposites discussions

Students choose two opposing ideas from a worksheet like “Offer low salaries and high bonuses”/ “Offer high salaries” and discuss them until they can reach agreement or realise that they will never be able to agree. As with this example, this works best as a roleplay business meeting. However, it could also be a couple discussing what kind of furniture to buy, etc.

Opposites complaints roleplays

Students roleplay complaining about getting the opposite of what they expected or wanted. This can be done to a member of staff such as a shop assistant, with points for getting the best response out of them (getting bumped up to business class, etc) if you want to score. It can also be fun as just complaining to friends, perhaps trying to outdo each other with the awfulness of their stories.

Opposites brainstorming races

Give students a category like “Opposites in this classroom” or “Opposites related to weather” and a time limit to write such pairs of words or expressions down. When they finish, they get one point for each thing that other teams didn’t think of, e.g. a point for “The door is open but the window is closed” if no one else wrote that (as long as it matches the instructions).

Opposite memories roleplays

Students pretend to be old people with very different memories of past events, taking part in exchanges like “No, John was the tall brother. Jack was the short one” and “The dancing was fast” “Really? But I remember that the music was slow”.

Written by Alex Case for Teflnet September 2023
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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