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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Earth, Air, Fire and Water

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: vocabulary / warmer.

Materials: small object, such as handkerchief or a ball.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

The objective of this quick game, tailored for a warmer, is to think of words that fit the categories Earth, Air or Water.

The students stand or sit in a circle. One student throws a small object (I usually use a small yellow ball with a Smiley painted on it) to one of the other students, shouting either 'Earth', 'Air', or 'Water', and starts counting up to ten. Before the number ten is reached, the other student must name a creature that lives in the named region. For instance, if the category is 'Earth', possible answers could be tiger or slug. If the category is 'Air', possible answers could include falcon or wasp. If a student thinks of a suitable creature in time, that student becomes the person to throw the object at someone else but, if the student cannot think of a suitable answer, the student who counted to ten has a second go, throwing the object at another student. Important: if 'Fire' is shouted, the student has to remain silent.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Write Now!

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: grammar and vocabulary / warmer.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

Divide the students into teams, separating them into two or three rows, facing the board. First student from each row comes to the board. Call out a letter. Students must write down all the words they can think of that begin with that letter. Call "time's up" after about 20 seconds. Second students come up. Give them a different letter. The row with the most correct (and correctly spelled) words wins.

This game is especially suitable to be a fun, lively warmer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ten Things

Level: Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: writing.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: whiteboard markers (and a board, evidently).

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

Divide the class into two teams, telling the students that they will come to the board to write, each student a time/per turn. Read out some categories, for instance:
  • Things that come in pairs;
  • Things that can fly, 
  • Things that are difficult;
  • Things that move fast;
  • Things that you keep cold;
  • Things that go up and down;
  • Things that make a lot of noise, etc.
In each team, students quickly think of ten things in that category. Then the appointed student for that turn comes to the board and writes the list. The first team to write the list wins a point. After some rounds (say, five or six), the team which most points are considered the winners. 

This game (which can be employed as a very nice warmer) is a hit with most of my students, teenagers and adults alike!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Name Six

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: grammar and vocabulary.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

This game is fun and challenging at the same time. It can be adapted for virtually any subject and any grade level. It allows the students to review material they have learned, without having to get out a pencil and paper and answer questions from texts.

Arrange six chairs in a circle and choose one person, you or another student, to stand outside the circle. 
Give someone in the circle a stuffed animal, for example (the funnier the animal the better!) or one of those yellow smiley balls easily found in any cheap trinkets stores (that's the one I usually use). The person outside the circle states what the person holding the animal has to name six of (e.g., countries, breakfast food, Olympic sports, etc.). The person then starts moving the animal around the circle and the other players pass it around. The student who was holding the animal must name six of the objects before the animal gets back to him or her.

For example, let's say that you have just finished a vocabulary unit on animals. The person standing outside the group may say something like, "Name six animals that have fur." The person sitting in the circle begins naming six animals and at the same time, the stuffed animal is being passed around the circle. If the player cannot name six animals with fur by the time the stuffed animal reaches him, he has lost and it's his turn to stand outside the group and stunt the other students.

Students absolutely love this game, for the sheer energy involved and the fast pace of it. And so do I, because it requires little preparation!