Slang Activities & Games

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Teaching slang to students can be tricky, but with the right tools it can lead to a deeper understanding of language. This lesson provides teachers with activities intended to show students how to analyze and use slang.

Slang What?

Most likely, your students already use slang on a daily basis. When you introduce this lesson, it can be helpful to provide your learners with a broad definition of slang and solicit some examples from them that can be used in the other activities. Ask your students for a definition of slang and some examples as you write the following on the board:

  • Slang is informal language.
  • Slang is usually spoken rather than written.
  • Slang can be specific to groups or eras and change over time. For instance, the slang young people use today is different from the slang young people used in the 1970s.

Some students, especially English as a second language (ESL) students, confuse slang with rude language or cursing, so you may want to point out that slang is not the same as cursing. Also, because slang is constantly evolving, there is a significant chance your students will know slang terms that you've never heard before, and that's okay.

The primary aim of the following activities is for students to understand how slang affects communication and understanding, not for them to learn new, ever-changing slang terminology. General materials include notebook paper and pencils or pens.

Slang Translation

This activity will show your students how slang terms are related to more formal language. To demonstrate how the activity works, write the following list of words on the board, but leave out the suggested answers in parentheses.

  • Leave (bail)
  • Lazy TV watcher (couch potato)
  • I made a mistake (my bad)
  • Study intensely (cram)
  • Get together with friends (hang out)
  • Relax (chill, lighten up)
  • Make something very messy (trash)
  • Finish something (wrap up)
  • Tell a secret (spill the beans)
  • Sit in the front passenger seat (ride shotgun)
  1. Ask for volunteers to come to the blackboard and write the slang translation for each word. You may want to give the answers to the first few to show them how it's done.
  2. After all of the terms have been translated, make sure students agree on the answers.
  3. Finally, give students some time to create their own 5-10-word quizzes to share with classmates.
  4. Alternatively, you can have students write a list of slang terms that classmates must then translate back into formal language.

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