Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Five Ways to Use Buzzers in Class


I have been involved with teacher training for over 5 years now and I had the opportunity, last week, to observe a fellow colleague for the first time since he joined us for the summer. The teacher had previous experience in Vietnam and had been teaching there for many years and has just returned back to England for a short period. Anyhow, there were a few nice ideas which I have now decided to borrow/steal/use next time that I am in class. The biggest thing that I first saw in the classroom was the use of buzzers. You know the buzzers from game shows. You press them and it creates a sound, lighting up. From this observation last week, I have been thinking of creative ways to use buzzers in class and I have suggested five teaching ideas for class.


1. Buzz The Answers

This activity is best for quizzes and works on the same premise as game shows, with each student or group of students sit opposite each other with a buzzer for each student or group of students. You read out a question and the team with that knows the answer, hits the buzzer and they answer first. If they are incorrect, then the question goes to the other team. Give a point to the correct team and you can think about removing points for incorrect answers. It is a great way to engage learners with the buzzer. Good questions could follow “Name 5 things which are …” and students have to write the answer, and once all answers are written, they buzz and answer first. Always good to get students working in teams.


2. Odd One Out

Instead of using the buzzers with a quiz, you could prepare a few sentences or words which contain two wrong pieces of information or grammatical mistakes and one which is correct. For example, you could read out some vocabulary and the students (in their groups) have to buzz and explain which is the odd one out and why. See below for an example.

  • ear / leg / nose / mouth (‘leg’ is the odd one out as the others are on the head)
  • lemon / tomato / grape / potato (‘potato’ is the odd one out as the others are considered fruit)
  • speak / eat / buy / change (‘change’ is the odd one out as the other words are irregular verbs)


3. Buzzed Dictation

As a fun and engaging dictation/dictogloss activity, you could use a buzzer to fill in important words. For example, you could do the following: “I was walking to [BUZZ] and I met [BUZZ]. It was a long time since I last met [BUZZ] and we …”. Students listen to the story and then try to finish it with their ideas. You then compare their stories with the original. It is an engaging and motivating activity for students of any ability but ensure that the story is gauged at the appropriate level.


4. Buzz The Word

Another way to get students listening to detail is to give a word or phrase that they need to listen for during a dictation. This will develop detailed listening skills and encourage learners to develop skills around it. For example, if you want students to listen for the phrase “It was manic!”, you could tell a story – much like the activity above – or play a listening CD and when students hear the phrase, they press the buzzer. You could have more than one phrase or word that students have to listen for, and once students buzz in when they hear the phrase, you give them a point. The winner is the student or group that has the most points. It is a fun task which will motivate the most dry of dictation/listening tasks.


5. Translation Check

I have found more and more students of all ages wanting to check translation of particular vocabulary on their smartphones prior to asking the teacher. I have resorted to getting students to place their phones in a small box at the corner of the classroom. However, you could get students to press the buzzer if they wish to walk over to their phone, use it to for spelling or to translate something. It has the immediate pressure that the student wishing to check the word or translation will be seen in front of their peers and this may also reduce the dependence on smartphones and translation tools in class. On a side note, I do let students check a translation of a word but then I make a note of the word and a few days later, I try to get students to remember the word in L1 or L2.


I hope the ideas suggested above were useful. Should you wish to get your very own buzzers in class, then you can purchase them online at Amazon here (https://amzn.to/2lydeVX). How else could you use buzzers in class? Do you think they are just a gadget rather than a tool? Don’t forget to like the post and share with your friends.


  1. Some nice ideas here. Thanks!

    • Martin Sketchley

      Glad you found it valuable. Have you ever used buzzers in class before?

      • I have been tempted to buy them but have resisted so far. I’ve done versions of activities 1 and 3 with alternatives to buzzers (i.e. other objects which make different noises). There are new activities here that I’d like to try, so perhaps it’s time to invest.

  2. Very interesting ways, thanks for sharing

    • Martin Sketchley

      Glad you found it useful. Any ideas how else you could use buzzers in class?

  3. Hi Martin,
    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be putting up a post about it on Thursday’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil, if you’d like to check there for comments.


    • Martin Sketchley

      Thanks for letting me know Ann.

      I’ll check the Teaching English Facebook Page. Have a wonderful week.

      Regards, Martin.

  4. I’ve never seen buzzers like this before – I’ve always used squeaky dog toys! Guaranteed to please students of all ages 🙂

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