Mad Lib Game

This activity makes use of a mad lib game to reinforce logical computation steps that are crucial in formal semantics.


To help students practice definitions and computation steps in a fun, interactive setting. 

Background: This in-class activity was built around semantic notions that had been covered and discussed in class. The activity was completed prior to Spring Break and is used as a review activity for the concepts learned in the first half of the semester.

The activity is a Mad Lib Game which can be prepared using the online Mad Lib Generator . The instructor used a passage from song lyrics (ex: "If We Hold on Together” by Diana Ross) and replaced nouns, verbs and determiners within the passage with labeled slots. Students, with semantic concepts in hand, were able to generate a (silly) paragraph based on the words they chose.


Before Class Preparation:

  • Choose a passage that will be displayed on a screen to the class
  • Use Mad Lib to replace some of the nouns, verbs and determiners and replacing them with semantic notions such as one-place-predicates or quantifiers
  • Write these semantic notions on small pieces of paper, and distribute them to students before the activity

In Class Activity:

  • Display passage on screen for all students to see
  • For each prompt that requires a 1-place-predicate, the student who picks the prompt is required to fill in the prompt with a word that fits. A 1-place-predicate-noun would be a word like “backpack” while quantifiers are determiners like “every” and “most”
  • Students are asked to define the prompt and give a lexical entry of the word they suggested
  • For each word the student suggests, the instructor should type the word into the appropriate slot in the passage
  • After filling out the slots, you can generate a MadLib resulting in a silly paragraph that students can read out at the end


  • This can be expanded into a larger exercise. The prompts could be one verb you remember from Shakespeare’s play and one author from the 16th century.

Comments: According to the instructor, being able to compute meanings from smaller units is crucial for more complex meaning derivations. This game is one fun, quick way to contribute to that learning. Keep in mind to give your students enough time to come up with a prompt. 

Submitted by Dorothy Ahn, Linguistics

mad_lib_example1.pdf126 KB
madlib_example2.pdf64 KB