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

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

Monday, October 08, 2012


Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: writing/miming.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: pencils and paper.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes.

The goal here is to understand the who/what/where of any story, scene or improvisation and to make creative decisions by inventing who/what/where in improvised situations. You can play this game with the whole class, two large teams or teams of five students.

Have the whole group write down some of their ideas of a who/what/where, following the following examples: 

Who: Mickey Mouse (Hero)
What: Flying through the air 
Where: Over a city

Who: Ms. Jones (Secretary)
What: Filing her nails
Where: In the office

Who: Tick-Tock (Clock)
U Moving its arms
Where: In the kitchen

Who: Hugo (Footballer)
What: Kicking the ball
Where: At a dentist's office

Who: Iris (The rainbow)
What: Smelling flowers
Where: On a cloud

Talk about who/what/where. Make sure the students understand what they mean. Teacher or students suggest a where (location) and the characters who will be in this place. Students choose their own who and what. Give a maximum of thirty seconds for this choice. If they have written a list and discussed ideas first, these decisions will be made faster. If they cannot think of something quickly, tell them to be the same character (who) and to do the same action (what) as another member of the group. There can be two or three of the same kind of character.

Tell them to do two minute improvisations. Teacher gives a where saying: "People, animals or objects on a sinking ship! Go!" All these characters talk and freeze when they hear the freeze sound.

Characters can be any noun: people, animals, objects, the weather, ideas, etc. The action is what the character is doing and can be logical or not. The location can also be either logical or illogical. The illogical ones are funnier.

Monday, October 01, 2012


Level: Advanced.

Skills: writing.

Topic: vocabulary.

Materials: pencils and paper.

Time: 5 to 15 minutes.

The object of this activity is to guess a phrase or saying from its initials.

One student writes down on a piece of paper the first letters of the words of a well-known phrase or saying, such as a proverb, quotation, book title, etc. All the other students are told what type of phrase it is, and they try to guess the phrase from its initials. The first person to guess the phrase a new phrase for the other players to solve.

Student X writes down the initials HWHIL and tells the other students that these are the initial letters of a five-word proverb. They rack their brains and eventually Student Z guesses correctly that the proverb is 'He who hesistates is lost'. Student Z then writes down ITFEWBFFFM and tells the others that it is a quotation by Andy Warhol. Student Y immediately recognizes the saying as: 'In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes'.