The Internet TESL Journal

Twenty Questions

Jacqueline Lay
Malaspina University College (BC, Canada)
Twenty Questions is an interactive activity for lower intermediate students. This activity can be used to review Yes/No Questions. It is suitable for both small and large groups, and it requires few or no materials.

Level: Lower Intermediate
Target Language: yes/no questions
Class: large group (20-25 students) or small groups (3-5 students)
Materials: shoe box (optional), white board markers, 4-5 objects that can fit inside a shoe box


The following activity is useful as a warmer or a filler and can provide review or practice with yes/no questions. This is an oral activity for lower level English speakers (low intermediate). It can be used with a large class (20-25 students) and it can be used in small groups (3-4 students). The students do not need any materials, and the instructor only needs a white board or a blackboard with pens or chalk and if possible, a shoe box. I usually model this activity with the entire class first, and then I have the students try it in small groups of 3-4 students.

Large Group Activity

First, I ask the students what a shoe box is. Then I draw a shoe box on the board to illustrate the approximate size or I bring an example of a shoe box to class. I place a few items such as a pencil, a ring, a calculator, a watch, and a banana on the table and ask the students to name the items. I then explain that any of these items could fit inside a shoe box. I ask students to provide further examples of objects that could fit inside a shoe box, and I list them on the board. I then ask students for opposite examples. What could not fit inside this shoe box?  I also list these objects on the board.

Second, I explain to the students that I am going to think of something that could fit inside the shoe box, and I state that it is going to be one of the five items on the desk. I then explain to the students that they are going to ask me questions in order to guess which item I am thinking of.  I also explain that the students can only ask yes/no questions. I take one of the objects such as a banana and I model the first two questions. “Is it yellow?”  and then “Is it a banana?” Next, I tell the students that I am thinking of one of the four objects. The students usually ask questions such as “Is it the calculator?” or “Is it the watch?”

Third, I explain that I am going to think of another object, but it is not one that is on the table. I let the students ask a few questions and they usually ask, “Is it a book?” or “Is it a ruler?” I then explain to the students that it could take a long time to guess if we simply ask about an object. I then ask them if there are other questions we could ask to help us guess about the object. I then explain that the point of the game is to guess what the object is in 20 questions. Usually one or two students suggest that we ask questions to gather more information about the object. I then provide examples such as the following: “Can we eat it?” or “Can we wear it?” I encourage the students to gather more information about the object before they guess what it is. I allow the students more opportunities to guess what the object is.

Small Group Activity

Finally, once the students understand the activity, I have the class form small groups of 3 to 4 students. I usually assign one student per group to start. At this point I walk around the class to ensure that the students understand the activity. I find that students catch on very quickly to Twenty Questions.


The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XI, No. 7, July 2005