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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Changing Hats

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: grammar.

Materials: half the number of hats as there are students.

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

The goal of this game is to exchange hats while practising possessive and demonstrative pronouns. Distribuite the hats to some of the students. Students begin to take hats off of others and put them on their own, or someone else's head, emphasizing the pronouns used (possessive, object, subject, demonstrative) and possessive adjectives.

If the game is restricted to possessive adjectives and demonstrative pronouns, it will sound like this: "That's my hat". "No, it's not. It's his hat." "That's her hat." "No, that hat is hers." "I'm taking that hat because it's mine." "I'm giving you this hat because it looks good on you". For subject and object pronouns: "I'm giving this hat to her". "She gave that hat to him".

This is an unusually popular game with all ages. For some reasons unknown, everybody loves to switch hats.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Traveller's Alphabet

Level: Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: vocabulary / warmer.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

Another great warmer, now aimed at more advanced students. It has worked very well with teenagers as much as with adults.

The students sit in a row and the first begins by saying, "I am going on a journey to Athens," or any place beginning with A. The one sitting next asks, "What will you do there?" The verbs, adjectives, and nouns used in the reply must all begin with A; as "Amuse Ailing Authors with Anecdotes." If the player answers correctly, it is the next student's turn; she says perhaps: "I am going to Bradford." "What to do there?" "To Bring Back Bread and Butter." A third says: "I am going to Constantinople." "What to do there?" "To Carry Contented Cats." Any one who makes a mistake is out of the game or must pay a forfeit to continue playing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Or's, And's, or But's

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking (or writing)

Topic: warmer.

Materials: none (or writing supplies).

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

Want to hear a great story? Then create one with your students, a word at a time. (This is also a neat activity to do with a word processor, if you have a multimedia room where students can use computers to type). 

Have one student say or write any word to begin the tale. Then other student adds a word, and so forth, until the first sentence is finished. This cooperative speaking/writing approach continues until the story comes to a conclusion. It may or may not be the ending you had envisioned, but that's the whole point: You never know what direction the tale will take when you and your student become co-authors. 

Once you've gotten the hang of co-writing a story in this fashion, up the ante by introducing a new rule: no one can use the words "or," "and," or "but." That's a lot more difficult than it sounds. Take turns inventing new rules, too, just to keep each other on your toes. 

That's going to be tough when you can only use words less than five letters long ...

Monday, April 09, 2012


Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: warmer.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

The objective of this quick game is to guess words when they are spelt backwards. 

First, divide the class into two groups. Appoint a student to start the game; he or she spells out a word backwards. The first student   —  of any group  —  to identify the word correctly scores one point. If students guess the word incorrectly, they lose a point. [Alternatively, the student who guesses correctly becomes the next player to spell out the word backwards].

The game can also be played with one student pronouncing a word backwards (e.g. 'taerg' for great backwards).

Monday, April 02, 2012

Follow The Leader

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking / miming (at the same time!)

Topic: grammar

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

The goal here is to follow the leader using the same sound and action as the leader. Also, to change leaders, so that each person in the group can have a chance to lead (it's good to recap present continuous phrases or sentences!).

Get your whole group standing in a circle, or if the group is large, in two or three separate circles. You should be in the circle , but lead as little as possible, explaining that you will start an action and say a phrase at the same time (e.g. painting a wall). Everyone must follow the action and phrase. The action and phrase must be repeated until someone changes them by doing a new action and phrase (e.g. eating an apple).

It is important to repeat each action and phrase until it is changed. This maintains the rhythm of the game and prevents the students from winding down or stopping to 'think'.

If two people start a new action/phrase simultaneously, they are simply to choose one and follow it, until the whole group is doing the same.

In an elementary group, it is better to let anyone lead who wants to. Eventually, everyone will lead.

Every phrase should be accompanied by a mime action. If someone forgets, you can help.

In Intermediate groups, sentences (e.g. we are getting dressedthey are driving a car) can be employed. Questions and answers with half the circle asking the question to the other half wihile pointing at them: 'What are you doing?' The second half of the circle answers and performs a mime action. With Advanced groups, use the same procedure, but add more complicated grammar structures (e.g. after he had buried the body, he drank a cup of tea; with the circle divided in two, half 1 asks 'if you weren't combing your hair, what could you be doing?' and half 2 answers, miming too: 'we could be drinking a cup of coffee').