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

Monday, July 23, 2012

Martians Vs. Earthlings

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: miming, speaking.

Topic: vocabulary, spelling.

Materials: timer (one that rings, beeps, buzzes or makes some other kind of noise), flashcards with words.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes.

“Martians vs. Earthlings” is a game that is perfect for the last month of school. It is active, yet it has the very attractive feature (to teachers!) of requiring silence from most players. It takes thinking, creativity and ingenuity on the part of the students. It also involves communication, though of the non-verbal kind. With luck, the game may even give students more appreciation for the role language plays in our world.

When students come into class, have them draw numbers that designate them as Martians, Earthlings or Zelbotian Rulers. There should be only four or five Zelbotian Rulers, with the rest of the class divided equally between Martians and Earthlings. Thus, a class of 35 might have five Zelbotian Rulers, 15 Earthlings and 15 Martians. 

Explain that a space-traveling team of Earthlings and a space-traveling team of Martians have simultaneously had mechanical difficulties and landed on an unknown planet, a planet that has room for only one more group of beings. The planet’s Zelbotian Rulers must decide which group to allow to stay and which group to toss back into outer space - a very dangerous alternative.

The Zelbotian Rulers have decided to keep the group that proves itself to be the best at communicating. However, there’s a problem. The Zelbotian Rulers understand neither Martian nor English and, in fact, become quite irritated by the sound of either language. The Martians and Earthlings must find ways to communicate without using language, according to the following test:
  • The teams will take turns trying to communicate the meaning of different words on flashcards to the Zelbotian Rulers. The teams must communicate with each other and with the Zelbotian Rulers entirely without using spoken or written language.
  • Because the Zelbotian Rulers hate the sound of languages they don’t understand, the Earthlings will lose a point every time anyone in their group speaks, and the Martians will lose a point every time any Martian speaks. The same goes for any kind of written communication.
  • The Zelbotian Rulers will flip a coin to see which team goes first. Then, the designated card holder (the teacher) will hold up a flash card to that team. That team will have one minute to try to communicate the word to the Zelbotian Rulers.

For example, if the flashcard says “love,” the team members will do all they can to get the Zelbotian Rulers to say “love.” If the Zelbotian Rulers guess the correct word before the timer sounds, the communicating team will gain one point. 

Yes, the Zelbotian Rulers get to speak. Their scientists have developed a device called the transmitifier, which allows their language to be understood by anyone who hears it, no matter what the person’s native language. Thus the Martians will hear what the Zelbotian Rulers say as Martian, and the Earthlings will hear whatever the Zelbotian Rulers say as English.

The Earthlings and Martians can’t use language at all, even to communicate with each other. Therefore, they may find it difficult to determine how to proceed in trying to communicate a word to the Zelbotian Rulers. It will take cooperation and creativity for a group to work together effectively.

  • At the end of one minute, play goes to the next team. The card holder holds up a new card, and then the new team has one minute to communicate the word to the Zelbotian Rulers.
  • Points are kept, even when a team goes into negative numbers. If a team has 0 points and someone speaks, the team will then have minus 1 point.
Possible Topics: love • hamburgers • taste • smell • ice •  flower • motorcycle • intelligence • hot • slow • hammer • book • words • green • newspaper • umbrella • television • telephone • numbers • beautiful • star • water • fish • calculator • sky • impatience • penguin • yellow • mother • temperature • paper • drew • carpet • cat • shy • milk • rain • skyscraper • rainbow • bus • envelope • talk • brave • ocean • hope

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