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

Monday, May 28, 2012

Story Consequences

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: writing.

Topic: grammar/vocabulary.

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

Time: 10 to 15 minutes.

The goal here is to students write parts of a text, guided by cues as to general purpose, but deprived of the ability to communicate with or see the contributions of one’s co-authors. It works out very nicely with students of any level.

Divide the class into groups of eight players. If you have smaller groups then some of the learners must write two sentences or more. 

Demonstrate how to fold a piece of A4 paper into eight strips: fold the paper in half, then in half again, and in half one last time; making all the folds parallel. Then, guided by the resulting creases, refold the paper into zigzags, like the squeezy parts of a concertina or accordion. Ask one student from each group to fold a piece of paper in the same way.

Explain that the game proceeds as follows: the first student writes his/her contribution on the first panel of the concertina, i.e. the topmost panel. This student should do this quietly and secretly, folding the panel over when he/she is done, so that no one else can see what was written. Next, the second student follows suit, then the third, and so on, until all eight contributions have been added. The last student has the task of unfolding the concertina and reading out loud to the others the full text of the little story that results.

If you want to guide the process more closely, you could tell the students the story is guided by the following formula, which prescribes what each student should contribute:
  • Fold 1 (time) …
  • Fold 2 (place) …
  • Fold 3 X (male character’s name) met …
  • Fold 4 Y (female character’s name)
  • Fold 5 He said …
  • Fold 6 She said …

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jog! Jog! Jog!

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking.

Topic: grammar.

Materials: none.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

This game is aimed at children and teenagers, but I have worked with some adults who loved it. It's worth a try! 

First, have the learners stand together in an open space. Tell them to follow your instructions, repeating the verb over and over as they do so. The first instruction – and every second instruction throughout the game – is one that makes the learners circulate: Jog!

Teacher: (starts jogging around the room) Jog! Jog! Jog! etc.

Learners: (jogging) Jog! Jog! Jog! etc.

Teacher: (stops jogging) Pat your neighbour’s head! (turns to the closest person and starts patting their head) Pat! Pat! Pat! etc.

Learners: (patting their neighbour’s head) Pat! Pat! Pat! etc.

Teacher: (stops patting and starts jogging around the room): Jog! Jog! Jog! etc.

Learners: (jogging) Jog! Jog! Jog! etc.

Other instructions: touch, tap, stroke, tickle, slap, scratch.

It's fully appreciated that making bodily contact is not considered appropriate in some cultures and with some individuals. As with all games in this blog I suppose that the teacher knows what is and what isn't acceptable.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Level: Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: speaking/writing.

Topic: vocabulary / warmer.

Materials: sheets of paper, pencils/pens.

Time: 5 to 10 minutes.

This game can be played in two ways. Students can take turns to ask other students to think of a word that ends with a particular series of letters. Alternatively, students can be given a list of word-endings and challenged to write down one word for each ending. The winner is the first student to write down suitable words for the whole list. It's a nice game for a quick warmer (with two, three or four competing teams). 

Monday, May 07, 2012


Level: Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: writing.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: a dictionary & sheets of paper/pencils

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

The objective of this game is to think of words containing a given pair of letters.

One student calls out two letters of the alphabet, and all the other students have to write down (in a set time) all the words they can think of that contain those two letters together. The winner is the student who thinks of the largest number of words. Alternatively, students score one point for every word they make but two points for words that nobody else has written down. If desired, it can be ruled that the pair of letters must not start or end words.