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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sit Down!

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: grammar.

Materials: none.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes.

Sit Down! works best as a warmer with beginners. However, it may also be used as a fun activity for reinforcement and review of a specific grammar point, especially when the class isn't in the mood for a worksheet. Note that ideal class size ranges between eight and fifteen students.

Students arrange chairs into a large circle. There should be one less chair than the number of students in the activity. If there are ten students, for example, then there are only nine chairs.

Select one student random to stand in the middle of the circle. As this is the first round of the activity, it's often best to choose a stronger student. This ensures that the activity starts smoothly. All the other students sit down.

The student in the middle asks a question. The question should be a closed question. All students who answer "yes" to the question must stand and quickly change seats. The student who asked the question similarly rushes to sit down. Some sample questions include:

Question: Do you have a pet?
Question: Did you eat breakfast?
Question: Do you like English?
The student who couldn't sit down now asks a closed question, thus repeating the process above The rounds may continue until the teacher stops the activity.

Here any student who answers "no" stands up and changes seats. This variation may be used in conjunction with the above positive answers. After several rounds, switch to this variation. You can also solely run this variation, which tends to produce interesting and creative questions after several rounds.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Level: Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

Students choose (or are given) words for which they have to make humorous definitions. Often the definitions will use a pun (as in 'boomerang, what you say to frigten a meringue' or 'carrion, British comedy films') but sometimes they will be witty (as in 'alone, in bad company', or 'cannibal, someone who goes to a restaurant and orders the waiter'). As the game demands a deeper undestanding of the language, it is deemed to very Advanced students.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Level: Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: writing.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: pencils and paper.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

A word is chosen - usually a fairly long word (Constantinople is an old favourite) - and students have to make as many words as they can from the letters in the chosen word. The letters can be used in any order, but a letter can be used in any one word only as many times as it occurs in the chosen word (so from the chosen word teacher you can make reheat but not treat). A time-limit can be set (say, five minutes), and the winner is either the person who finds the largest number of words, or the person who finds the largest number of words that other students have not found.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Miscellaneous Memory

Level: Elementary.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: grammar.

Materials: sentence (and additional words) written on a piece of paper.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

Give students a sentence written on a piece of paper, such as “He watched TV every afternoon.” Provide one students with a word that changes the time of the action, such as “now”. Ask the students to rephrase the sentence accordingly and produce “He’s watching TV now.”

Give the next student another word, such as “I” instead of “He” so the pupil says “I’m watching TV.” Continue until one student makes a mistake or until you’ve gone round the whole class.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Acting Comparatives and Superlatives

Level: Elementary and Intermediate.

Skills: miming.

Topic: grammar.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

The goals here are to make comparatives and superlatives physical and to guess what is being acted out.

Divide the class into trios. Each team can think of its own adjective, or they can write a suggestion on a piece of paper and give it to another team. Examples: big, small, intelligent.

Teams get only one minute to plan how they will act out the superlatives of their word. A person's size or shape has no relationship to this game. It is the size or shape of the action that counts,

After one minute of planning, "time" is called. Teams share.

Teams can either:
  • Say the words as they act them out, or
  • Have other teams guess what they are acting and say the word.
To reduce the possibility of embarrassing anyone, tell students to use character names instead of their own names!

Monday, October 22, 2012


Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: reading/speaking/miming.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: pencils and paper.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes.

The teacher or students write short sentences, which use a vowel (or consonant) sound several times. Each team receives a different vowel sound sentence.

Teams practice saying their sentence several times, so as to memorize it. 

Teams then have a maximum of five minutes to plan how they will act out their sentence together.This includes practice time, so after two minutes, you say: "Start moving and practicing now, so you'll be ready to share in three minutes".

People can do the same or different actions.

Make the freeze sound after five minutes. The teams then share with the rest of the class.

Teams must say their sentences and perform their actions three times.

You then choose new team names: one is called lions, one is called dogs, and one is called mice. Lions must always shout. Dogs speak in a normal voice. Mice always whisper (but must be heard throughout the room). Enunciation is especially important for the mice.

Switch teams so that each team has a chance to play the lions, dogs or mice. Call out "Lions!", "Dogs!" or "Mice!" while they are acting out a sentence, to see if they can change the tone of their voices.

Example sentences:
  1. She looked good, as she put out her foot.
  2. It's a little bit difficult to live in India.
  3. The murderer wore purple as he stirred in the poison.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Building Group Objects

Level: Elementary and Intermediate.

Skills: miming.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

This game is mainly for children, though some adults may like to play it. You should be involved  in the activity at the outset. Call out nature objects and count five ("Tree..., 1-2-3-4-FREEZE!).

Everyone moves at the same time, and becomes a tree. Even if they have not finished, they must freeze at the fifth count. After one team has done five objects, switch teams.

Start with nature objects, then go on to household objects. Finally, when  the group is working well with these themes, go on to other objects and last of all do animals, for the following reasons:

  • They will love to do cars and planes, but will want to be the person using them, rather than part of the whole object.
  • Animals are by far the most difficult to do so it is important for the group to feel that they have done them successfully. they are so specific, that one team watching another may say: "That doesn't look like a real elephant!" Success is more easily achieved with the nature objects, since there are so many kinds of trees and flowers.
  • Always start and end with a tree. It allows easy connections and many levels - roots, branches low and high. The tree you end should be different from the first one!
  • The household object should follow the nature objects, when these are being done with ease. Always start and end with a house, but the final house should look different from the first one.
Nature: tree, mountain, flower, cave, rock, cloud, rainbow, spider web, river, waterfall
Household: house, door, candle, scissors, clock, window, stove, umbrella
Other: missile, train, bicycle, car, submarine, sailing ship, airplane
Animals: elephant, bird, goat, centipede, snake, mouse