Sometimes we don’t need or don’t have access to much in the way of sophisticated aids, materials, back-up in our classrooms. But what we do have is the most sophisticated tool ever created – the imagination to help us!
Equip students either with dice or get them to make spinners (you can also make dice) and away we go…
can be student-made and that’s all the better as students will get involved in making and shaping their own materials and get to practise even more language.
Below is a board game I made to practise animal vocabulary. Children throw their dice in turn and when they land on a picture, they have to say what it is. It can be used for more complex language, too, e.g. when a child lands on an animal she can say ‘I like / I don’t like elephants’, practising the use of the plural; ‘Elephants are big and grey’, practising descriptions etc.
Children can create their own board games by drawing pictures of vocabulary items they have learnt in English and challenging each other. If you laminate the board games and keep them in a box, they are great for fast finishers or as a filler in lessons.
Older students can create board games with questions in spaces to be answered when landed on e.g. What’s your greatest ambition? What sport would you like to be able to play but can’t?
If producing a board game seems too fiddly or time-consuming, students can work in pairs (or individually) and write 6 questions (based on a previously taught unit in the course book e.g. if they are practising the vocabulary of jobs a question could be – What do you call a person who takes care of our teeth? / dentist). They mingle around the class and when they meet another pair/student, they have to roll or spin and get asked the question which they have landed on.
A fun game which revises lots of vocabulary and is great for older children and adults is practising how many syllables words have. In groups one student at a time rolls the dice or spins the spinner. When it lands on a number that student has to say a word which has that number of syllables in it e.g. 4 = photographer. If they are correct they win a point. At the end of the game, points are counted up and a winner declared. This game is great for recalling vocabulary and hearing it inside our head.
Students work in pairs and take it in turns to throw the dice / spin the spinner and have to produce an utterance with as many words as they have thrown. They have to conduct a whole conversation! You can assign topics beforehand. If you can record them it’s fun or have pairs doing their dialogues in front of the rest of the class, if they feel comfortable. This is great fun and encourages students to be very creative and meaningful, while producing often very short utterances.
Whose turn is it?
Choosing who gets to answer questions or dealing with lots of hands up in the air can lead to accusations of unfairness. I group students in the class so that there are five or eleven groups, each group assigned a number. (I get a number, too) With the bigger class I use 2 dice or spinners. When it’s time for someone to answer a question I roll the dice / spin the spinner(s) and that group – or I – answer the question. Trust me – it’s fun and students never complain if they have to answer more or fewer questions than others as it’s just the luck of the draw.
Normally whenever we play a game with students they win a point for a correct answer, but let’s bring an element of chance. For example they could be playing Hangman. Before they guess a letter they roll the dice or spin the spinner, whatever number they land on will be the amount of points they get if they are right. This adds that element of chance and daftness to the game. It is also great practise to add up points at the end together in English.
Another great game for teens / adults. Bring in an interesting picture with a lot happening in it or show a video clip from a film with lots of action but with the sound turned down. Assign each number a tense e.g. 1=simple present, 2=present continuous, 3=simple past etc. As students take turns rolling the dice they have to create a sentence about what they are seeing in that particular tense. Again students can work alone or in pairs. It’s challenging and yet very meaningful as the rest of the class must accept or reject the offerings.
Allocate each number to a question word – 1=who, 2=why, 3=where, 4=when, 5=what, 6=how. Decide on a topic – this is usually one studied recently. Students work in pairs or small groups. One at a time students roll or spin and as they land they have to make a question for their partner(s) on that topic using that question word. For example if they land on 4 and they topic is sport a question could be – When do you usually watch sport on TV? Making questions in English is tricky and it’s great to practise as well as to review language from earlier lessons.
Just use your imagination and you can no doubt think of lots more activities to practise English with these very simple tools.