Vocabulary Scavenger Hunts improves language learning

Vocabulary Scavenger Hunts improve language learning

NFC scavenger hunt at nottingham college

Near Field Communication (NFC) tags embedded into posters are a great way to create vocabulary scavenger hunts and other out-of-classroom collaborative activities for students.  Vocabulary Scavenger Hunts improve language learning by providing the opportunity for students to contextualize language in real situations. Students find these activities engaging and motivating and find new vocabulary easier to understand.


Small groups of students were required to navigate around the college via 9 posters embedded with NFC tags. These interactive posters directed the students’ smartphones to tasks, which could be written on blog posts.  In our recent scavenger hunt, we linked our NFC tags to word definitions on an online crowd-sourced dictionary called Toponimo. The students then had to make a collaborative decision regarding the most appropriate meaning of the word, relevant to its context.


The GPS system on smartphones can’t work inside buildings, so NFC tags are an ideal way to provide students with contextual information. These interactive posters had the effect of taking the focus away from the technology and allowed students to focus on deciding on the correct word definition for the location they were in. The students found that NFC-enabled mobile devices were a lot easier to use than the QR codes which have been previously used in vocabulary treasure hunts.


Questionnaires were given to the EFL learners after the scavenger quest and their opinions on the activities where gathered in focus groups. Initial research findings show that nearly 92% of our EFL students already looked up words on their mobile phones but every student involved in the project thought that learning the words in the different places around the college made them easier to understand. At the time of running the first vocabulary quest in December 2012, only one-third of the language learners regularly carried an NFC-enabled device to college. This is the main criticism of the vocabulary scavenger quest. Students mentioned in the focus groups however that these group vocabulary quests using mobile devices were more fun than comparable classroom activities using traditional dictionaries.

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