Using a Wider Range of Vocabulary - ESL Lesson Plan

Happy creative business people in meeting
Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/ OJO+/ Getty Images

One of the biggest challenges in teaching intermediate level learners is encouraging students to become more active in their use of putting new vocabulary to use when speaking and writing. Let's take into consideration the use of adjectives. Students know good and bad, or happy and sad, but do they use adjectives such as first-class or poor, or cheerful and upset? Some do, and many certainly know a number of synonyms, but this knowledge is often passive. This lesson plan focuses on helping students expand their active vocabulary usage. As the subject of the lesson, let's use the idea of happiness. There are many ways to express enthusiasm and joy, but they are used in different circumstances. This lesson helps students become familiar with a wide range of related vocabulary and encourages them to begin using this vocabulary in conversation.

Aim: Expand vocabulary that students actively use

Activity: Categorizing adjectives and follow-up discussion

Level: Upper-intermediate


  • Introduce the topic by speaking about some of your own joyful experiences. Use a wide range of adjectives including some of the vocabulary used in the activity below. 
  • Repeat some of the stories, or tell some more. However, this time pause after the use of new vocabulary and check on class understanding. Write new vocabulary on the board as you go. Target about 10 new vocabulary items.
  • Once you've got the new vocabulary down, discuss the idea of words forms. For example, 'thrill' can be an adjective as well as a verb. Other word forms include the adjective 'thrilled' and the adverb 'thrillingly'. 
  • Write 'Noun', 'Verb', 'Adjective', and 'Adverb' on the board.
  • As a class, decide which category the various words should fit into.
  • Have students put the new vocabulary in the exercise into categories. Each word or phrase should fit into two categories. Ask students if they can think of other vocabulary that they might add to each category. Another good idea is to ask them to create some of their own categories.
  • Encourage students to debate the categories using examples from their own experience. This should help students begin to use the new vocabulary as they discuss the words.
  • As a class, put the words into categories helping students with any misunderstandings as they arise.
  • For the second exercise, ask each student to choose one of the categories and write a paragraph about that particular type of happiness using as much of the new vocabulary as possible.
  • Finally, have students break up into small groups and discuss what they have written by reading each paragraph aloud to then discuss.
  • For classes that might be a little shy about sharing their experiences, correct the written paragraphs and ask them to relate their own joyful experiences focusing on using the new vocabulary.

Vocabulary into Categories

Put the following words in the categories you find most appropriate. Each word or phrase should be put into at least two categories. Be ready to discuss your choices with your classmates. Try to add two new expressions not on the list to each category. If you want, add a category or two or your own.

  • turn on
  • on cloud nine
  • be in the zone
  • elated
  • be stoked about
  • tickled
  • stimulate
  • prosperity
  • thrilled
  • be on cloud nine
  • inflame
  • elated
  • overjoyed
  • enliven
  • lively
  • be a happy camper
  • chill
  • sunny
  • captivated
  • merry
  • blessed
  • intoxicated
  • delight
  • blissful
  • satisfied
  • optimism
  • ecstatic
  • jump for joy
  • delirium
  • rally
  • contented
  • glee
  • have the time of one's life
  • playful
  • peaceful
  • jubilant
  • hilarity
  • euphoria
  • good humor
  • enchantment
  • electrify
  • cheerful


Language Function:



Used to express general happiness and contentment
Used to express how you feel when you are laughing
Used to express intense happiness
Used to express physical happiness
Used to express intellectual happiness
Used to express happiness at parties

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Using a Wider Range of Vocabulary - ESL Lesson Plan." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 26). Using a Wider Range of Vocabulary - ESL Lesson Plan. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Using a Wider Range of Vocabulary - ESL Lesson Plan." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).