Word of the Year: a conversation lesson

I’m a big word nerd and I usually pay attention to dictionary news. About a year ago I posted a lesson on the topic of new words that had been added to the Oxford Online Dictionary. I’m also interested in which words different dictionaries pick as their ‘word of the year’ and a couple of weeks ago my friend Debora Schisler shared an article on Facebook on this topic. And thus a lesson was born. 🙂

Now, this one is aimed at advanced students, both because of the length of the text and because some of the words mentioned in the article are very abstract, which may cause difficulties for lower level students. Age-wise, I have used it with both adults and teenagers and both had a lot to say about post-truth, which is definitely relevant about the political moment in Brazil.


The steps below are based on a PowerPoint presentation you can download from Dropbox or from Google Drive.

[Slide 1]

Put students in pairs or small groups and ask them to decide what these images/words have in common. You may want to double check they know the meaning of vape.

After 1-2 minutes, invite students to share their guesses. If nobody guesses it correctly, tell students these were the words of the year for the past three years.

At this point, ask students if they have heard anything about the word of the year in 206.

[Slide 2]

Tell students they are going to watch a video about Dictionary.com’s word of the year. Allow students to read the questions and then play the video.

Let students compare answers and then check with the whole group. As a follow-up, ask students if they think this was a good choice for 2016.

[Slide 3]

Tell students they are going to read an article about Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. To begin with, tell them to read only the first four paragraphs of the text and answer these questions. Set a strict time limit for this.

Let students compare answers and then check with the whole group.

The original text is here and my adapted version is below.


[Slide 4]

Now show students more specific questions about the whole text and give them more time to read it again (about 4 minutes).

Let students compare answers and then check with the whole group.

[Slide 5]

As a follow-up, tell students they are going to watch a video of Stephen Colbert giving his opinion about the word of the year. Check if students know who he is before playing the video.

Play video from 5:02 to 7:02 and afterwards let students pair-check.

[Slide 6]

I divided words into two groups. At the top there are ‘regular’ words and at the bottom ‘new’ words.

Go over the pronunciation of all the words, but pay special attention to adherent/adhere and hygge. Draw their attention to the catenation in ‘spike in’ and the elision in ‘post-truth’.

Get students to guess the meanings based on the context. The new words are explained in the article, but it’s still important to CCQ them. Adulting, in particular, is often used ironically.

[Slides 7 and 8]

In pairs, students answer conversation questions. Feel free to change the questions so that they are more suitable for your students. These were made with adult students in mind, but if you use it with adolescents, the focus needs to be different.

Thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “Word of the Year: a conversation lesson

  1. Thank you for this example which I used most successfully with an Advanced level class last year. A couple of them were fans of the late show, last week tonight, etc and so found the clip enjoyable, although it also sparked a short debate about whether truthiness has the same idea as post-truth.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s