Games for the Classroom
Speaking & Listening Skills 1
Students can lead this very simple game where they think of something that they can see in the classroom (or wherever you are) and the others have to guess what it is. Students give a clue by saying the first letter, for example, if they are thinking about the clock on the wall, they would say, ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C.’ A quick game that gets the students thinking about the vocab relating to their immediate environment.
Get the group together and ask for a volunteer to leave the room. Once they’ve gone, think of a ‘secret’ about that person, for example, it’s their birthday, or they’re having an affair with the college principal. That kind of thing. When they come back in, they have to guess the secret truth about themselves by asking questions. The rest of the group give clues. A great icebreaker, this one always raises a laugh.
A party game that works well with English students as a way of practicing listening to and understanding commands. The teacher says a number of simple commands, such as, ‘Put your hands on your head’, ‘Stand on one leg’ or ‘Start humming’, and the students have to do what you say – but only if you have prefaced the command with ‘Simon says…’. If you don’t say ‘Simon says…’ and the student follows the command, they are out, and the game resumes until there is a winner.
The whole class sits in a circle. Tell them that it’s your birthday next week and that you’re planning a birthday party. They are all invited… but on one condition. They must bring you a present, and it must be something that you really want. Each student in turn tells you what they will bring to give you on your birthday. You will either tell them that they can come, or that they are not invited. This depends on what they offer to bring you. The item they’re going to bring must begin with the same letter as your first name. If it does, they can come; if it doesn’t, they can’t. For example, if your name is Lucy and they offer to bring ‘a lemon’ as a present, they will be welcome. If they offer to bring ‘a bottle of wine’ they will be given short shrift! This game is hilarious, as some students will twig onto your ‘unspoken rule’ fairly early on, while some won’t get it at all, however obvious you make it!
Get the whole class together. Ask one of them to leave the room, then get the remaining students to change five things about the classroom. For example, you could put a chair on a table, or get two students to swap jumpers, or anything – so long as it’s not too subtle. Then bring the student back in and get them to guess what changes you have made.
Get the students standing in a line. Stand at one end and whisper a short phrase or sentence in the ear of the student next to you. For example, you could say, ‘My dad once met Bernard Cribbins in a bus queue in Dover.’ Each student repeats the phrase to their neighbor until you get to the end of the line, when the last student tells the class the sentence they heard, and you can reveal what the original sentence was. A good game for practicing listening and speaking skills.
What’s Going On…?
Probably better for an intermediate or advanced class, this one. Prepare twenty questions, based on what is happening in the news (be it local, national or world news). You could include spelling questions too, and questions about different members of the class, for example, ‘Which country does Louisa come from?’ Split the class into two teams and you’re ready to play. Give five points for a correct answer, and bonus points at your discretion for any extra information that the students give in their answers. If the first team doesn’t know the answer, hand it over to the other team for a bonus point.
My Butler Went To Meadowhall
The title refers to Meadowhall shopping centre near Sheffield. The game is really just a version of My Grandmother Went To Market. Students sit in a circle, away from desks and paper, and so on. Tell the students that you teach because you love it and don’t need the money as you are actually rather well off. In fact, you have a butler who goes up to Meadowhall every Friday to go shopping for you, and he buys you lots of different things. This week, however, you can’t decide what to buy, so you are asking the students to help you. You are going to make a list. Start with saying, ‘My butler is going to Meadowhall on Friday and will buy me… (think of any item that you can buy in a shop).’ The next person has to say, ‘Your butler is going to Meadowhall on Friday and will buy you…’ whatever you said, plus an item of their own. The list goes around the circle until the last person has to remember the whole list of items. Students usually give prompts if their fellow students are struggling. A good vocabulary game, as well as being fun and a test of the memory. Plus they get a laugh thinking about your (imaginary – unless you really have one…?) butler.
What’s In The Bag…?
Have a ‘lucky dip’ style bag, or box, which you can use from time to time for this quick activity that draws the class together in mutual curiosity. Put something different in the bag (or box) each time, for example, a paper clip, or an orange. Students take it in turns to feel inside the bag (or box) – without looking – and then describe what the object feels like and what they think it is. This activity can easily be handed over to the students for them to facilitate among themselves, even using items that they have brought in from home.
The Yes/No Game
An old favourite from TV, this is great for practising question and answer forms. Get students up to the front of the class one at a time and ask them questions, about themselves, the weather, the school or college – anything. The student must reply verbally but cannot say the words ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. If they do, they are out. Ask someone to act as the timer (and as the ‘gong’ or ‘buzzer’ when each player slips up and is out), and write the times for how long each student managed to go without saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the board. If the students get the hang of this game they could play it in pairs, with one asking the questions and the other answering, before swapping over roles.
Get the students into pairs, then give one half of the pair a picture from a magazine, for example, a man wearing a hat and coat and playing the piano. They have to describe what they can see, in detail, without showing the picture to their partner, who draws a sketch based on the description. At the end of the description they compare their pictures, before swapping roles. At the end of the session the whole class can see how close all the drawings were to their originals. A good activity for practicing communication and listening skills, and giving descriptions.
Our Living Photo Album
Ask each student to bring in one or more photographs of something that is important to them, that you can keep to put into a class photo album. Give them time to prepare a two-minute talk about their photograph, which could be, for example, of a place, or a family member or an event that has touched their life. Then sit in a circle with all the students and your ‘living photo album’ will come to life, as each student in turn explains why their photo is important or memorable to them. You could make a display with the pictures, or literally fill an album with them that everyone can enjoy looking at. Explain that you will give the photos back at the end of the course (or even at the end of the week). This is a good activity to help a relatively new group get to know each other.
Reading and Writing Skills
Students at all levels enjoy puzzling over this game. It’s also a good way to get them looking in their dictionaries. Your students suggest nine letters at random, either vowel or consonant, which you write on the board. (Or you could have cards with them on if you’re really organized!) In small groups the students have five minutes to come up with as many (real) words as they can from the original nine letters. The team with the most words spelt correctly gets a point, and the next round begins.
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