Recommended age group: 11–14
Time required: one or two 45–60 min sessions depending on ability
Equipment: a sponge ball, a tennis racket and writing materials.


Students will be challenged to use very precise language in this activity. They are asked to write glossary definitions for terms associated with tennis. The words used need to be simple so that they can be understood by someone new to the sport. Students will have to think very carefully. An added incentive can be injected into the activity by making it into a competition.

  1. Students are given an imaginary scenario to introduce the challenge:
    • The school is setting up a community tennis club so that people from the local area can come and play the game on the school's courts.
    • People playing for the first time will be given practical coaching but they will also need a short, simple glossary of tennis terms to help them understand the game.
  2. The task for students is to write a small part of this glossary. The class can work through an example together using a word such as 'umpire'. Ask for suggestions for a definition then invite improvements or alternatives. Explain that a definition needs to be simple and clear. Here are some existing definitions of 'umpire':
    • Wikipedia: Person designated to enforce the rules of the game during play, usually sitting on a high chair beside the net.
    • Oxford Dictionaries: An official who watches a game or match closely to enforce the rules and arbitrate on matters arising from the play.
    • Sports definitions: The official who sits in a raised chair in line with the net and who is in overall charge of the match.
    • N.B. Some students may be aware that there are Chair Umpires and Line Umpires in tennis.
  3. Some students will have more knowledge of tennis than others so it might be helpful to show a video clip of a tennis match and to pause this so students can look at the court. The clip showing a drop shot would be useful as this is one of the definitions in the activity. Alternatively, students can be taken outside to the school courts to look at them. A keen tennis player might then use a racket and ball to show a drop shot and serve.
  4. Give out activity sheet 2: Tennis glossary and clarify what the task is. Students should not be allowed dictionaries or reference sources. Stress that definitions need to make sense to someone who is unfamiliar/new with the sport.
  5. Students can be put in groups (of 4–6) to provide an additional incentive for the activity. Each group will nominate their best definition and these will go to a class vote to find a winner.
  6. Once the students have defined around half of the words, hold the vote. Each group can discuss what they think is their most effective definition for the first four words. That person then reads their definition aloud and voting takes place (students have one vote per round but cannot vote for their own team).
  7. Discuss why the winners were thought to be the best. Why are dictionaries hard to write?


This task involves students writing a 'Guide for Tennis Commentators'. This is a fun activity where students identify clichés and adjectives to avoid for TV and radio commentators working in tennis. This could be presented as a simple grid such as this:

Word/tennis term

Adjective to avoid   Better adjective





winner (winning shot)


drop shot






Students can add their own words and adjectives to the grid.

Older students could make an audioboom/video clip of themselves commentating to a clip of real tennis players or players from their school.

Make it active

  • Students can go onto a tennis court before their writing and act out some of the shots mentioned in the task.
  • In the extension activity teachers can throw a sponge ball to a student to nominate who should come up with a 'better' adjective.