Tried and tested (and approved!) games and activities to help English learning.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't say a word!

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: drawing / speaking.

Topic: grammar / vocabulary.

Materials: pieces of card (strips of paper), paper sheets and pencils (or pens).

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

This one goes well even with students who claim they are not artistically gifted. You can use any kind of vocabulary (e.g. furniture) or tenses (e.g. present continuous) you want. For this particular example, let's use jobsWrite ten jobs on separate pieces of card / strips of paper. Make one set of jobs per group. Sit students in groups of four, five or six. Give each groupa set of cards face down (or inside an envelope).

When you say Start!, the first student in each group takes a job card and has forty seconds to draw the word on a sheet of paper. He / she mustn't speak or use any words or letters in the drawing. While the first student is drawing, the other members of the group have to try and guess the word (saying exactly what's on the card). 

After forty seconds shout Stop! Ask each group if they guessed the word correctly and give them one point if they did. Then, the second student in each group takes a card, you say Start!, and so forth. The team with the most points at the end is the winner.

A quick version of this game is to sit students in pairs. Student A has his / her back to the board, student B can see the board. Write a word or phrase on the board and student B draws it for student A, who has twenty seconds to guess. Then swap roles.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

First Conditional Chain Game

Level: Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: grammar.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

This game is good to revise and practise structures in the first conditional. Sit the students in a circle and then  begin the game with a sentence; for example: “If I go out tonight, I’ll go to the cinema.” The next student in the circle must use the end of the previous sentence to begin his or her own sentence; e.g., “If I go to the cinema, I’ll watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The next student then could say, “If I watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I’ll eat lots of chocolate.” Then, the other continues with “If I eat lots of chocolate, I’ll put on weight” etc. The first student who gets 'stuck' and cannot carry on is considered 'out of the game'. The game continues for any amount of time that you consider suitable.

You could use this same game without the 'elimination' process, just for the fun of it. Some zany ideas usually sprout from some clever students. (You could feel tempted to give some kind of reward to those, though).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Level: Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: writing.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: sheets of paper and pencils (or pens).

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

This fast paced game is intended for students with higher vocabulary levels. Divide students into pairs, asking them to draw a grid of five squares by five on a piece of paper for each pair. The first student writes a five-letter word anywhere in the grid, horizontally or vertically. The second student then has to insert another five-letter word, either parallel or interlocking with it. It is imperative to remember that the words, if written side by side, they need to make sense on the areas that they are interconnected

The students continue alternately writing in words until neither student can fill in another word. The winner is the player who inserts the last word.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Yessir, Nossir

Level: Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced.

Skills: listening and speaking.

Topic: grammar / vocabulary.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 minutes.

A very quick and fun game, suitable for all levels. It can be used as a warmer, too. The objective here is to answer questions for one minute without saying 'yes' or 'no'. It is somewhat similar to V.A.M.P..

Pair up the students. In each pair, one of them asks the other a series of quick questions, which that student has to answer without using the words 'yes' or 'no' or nodding the head. The students quiz each other in turns. The winner is the student who lasts longer without saying the forbidden words. 

In a more difficult variation of this game, the words 'I' and 'you' also have to be avoided.

Another way of playing this game is for each student to be given five counters or tokens. Instead of pairs, divide the class into groups of five students. They act in turn as 'question master'. Each time anyone is tricked into saying 'yes' or 'no', that student is given one token by the questioner. The winner is the first student to get rid of all his or her tokens.