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Monday, June 25, 2012

Why all these games?

I have to admit - as a student, I don't particularly like playing games in class. I'm one of those "boring" people who are really happy to work on their own with a book or worksheet, and would hate to have to run around the classroom competing in "games". Also, before coming to Thailand, I taught one-on-one adult ESL classes in companies - not many opportunities to play these types of games there! So a lot of my teaching activities consist of worksheets and other, less "physical" tasks. I love creating worksheets, and as a student I liked completing them. But in this blog, I haven't included any of my ESL worksheets. Why? Mainly because (LOL), I don't know if it's possible to attach a worksheet to a blog entry. If you know how it's done, please let me know!

So... why all these move-around, silly games? Because my students asked for them. I really, really appreciated the group that one day came to me, and kind of shyly said, "teacher, please give us more games. We're getting bored!" I love it when students do that - tell me what they would like, what would go with their needs and personalities. So I did my best to start including games, and I had the best two terms of my life with that lovely, lively, eager group. Most of the games in this blog came from that group. They challenged me, they inspired me - and guess what - I started enjoying games! Now I can't imagine teaching a class without sprinkling games in as we go along. No games? How boring!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Completion Competition

Beforehand, write down all the answers to a set of exercises in small pieces of paper (one piece of paper per answer). Make enough sets for each group of 3 -5 students (depending on the size of your class).

Then put a basket or hat in the middle of the room (where you can see it clearly).

Tell the student you'll read a random sentence, and they need to find the paper that contains the answer to fill the "blank" of the sentence you're reading.

The first group to put the correct answer into the basket or hat wins a point.

After the game, you can either get them to work on the exercise again (now that they can read the sentences), or assign it for homework as review.

(This is very good for their listening skills, too).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grab the bell

Purpose: oral practice, accuracy.

1. Divide students into groups of about 4.

2. Place a bell (or some other easy-to grab object) in the center of the room. The reason I like the bell is that it makes noise, so it's clear who is holding it.

3. Have a set of sentences or exercises ready. Give each student, or each group, a copy.

4. Call out a random sentence (for example, "exercise 2, sentence 3"). (Alternative: this can also be done with brief listening tracks, which students listen to and try to remember)

5. Someone from each group must memorize it and grab the bell before he/she can say it to you. It he/she says it correctly, the team earns points.

Note: Let students know that, in each team, the same person cannot participate twice in a row. This will give others in the team the chance to participate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

oral sentence completion

This activity works well for exercises where students have to complete sentences with their own ideas, such as:

  • comparatives and superlatives: ..... is not as interesting as ...
  • conditionals: If I were older, ...
  • present perfect: I have always wanted to .../ I have never... before


  1. You should have a series (about 15- 20 or more, depending on your number of students) of sentences (cues) ready. Put it up on an overhead, or give each student (or each pair of students) a copy.
  2. Divide students into groups of no more than 6 people.
  3. Have a timer ready.
  4. Each group will stand up front, and will have 3o seconds to say as many sentences as they can. Two conditions apply: The same person cannot say two sentences in a row - he/she must give the chance to other members of the group. Secondly, they must produce the sentences in the order in which they are given; they cannot choose their cues.
  5. Give one point for each correct sentence.
  6. After 30 seconds, the next group comes up and continues producing sentences where the previous group left off.

Livening up the coursebook - musical ball

This is a good way to give weaker students enough time to complete an exercise, while adding an element of fun to the stronger students who usually have to wait for their slower classmates. It's brought a lot of laughs to my class.

  1. Have your class sit in a circle, each with their books/worshsheets ready.
  2. One of the students gets a soft ball, and starts passing it around while you play music. Meanwhile, all the students should be working on their exercise/worksheet.
  3. When you stop the music, whoever has the ball will call out the answer to the first exercise/question.
  4. Then the ball starts going around again, until the music stops and whoever has the ball this time calls out the answer to the next question.

as ... as (warmup)

Hold out your hand. Ask the students if any of them have a bigger hand than yours, a smaller hand, and if any of them have hands as big as yours (or one of the students' who has gone up). Ask them to come to the front.

You can then make sentences using their (and your) hands as an example:

Arthur's hand is (just) as big as Keita's.
Marlise's hand is not quite as big as Keita's.
Kristina's hand is almost as big as Marlise's.
Kristina's hand is not nearly as big as Keita's.

Bring me... (comparatives and superlatives)

This has worked as a good warmup activity for reviewing comparatives and superlatives (assuming that students have already studied it sometime before). It really brings energy to the class.

Divide students into groups. Then tell them that the first group to bring the objects you ask for, will win points.
You can say sentences such as the following:

"Bring me the thickest dictionary"
"Bring me the messiest folder."
"Bring me the whitest shoes."
"Bring me a cell phone which is bigger than mine."
"Bring me a watch which is smaller than mine."