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Chapter 13     Learning through Games

Children love to play

It is widely accepted that children learn more productively through play, and by games in this context it can be understood to mean any activity which contains an element of fun or enjoyment. There is a danger however that teachers may misconceive that fun is equivalent to learning and it is therefore imperative that every 'fun' activity integrated into a lesson has a specific role. Below is a list of considerations for choice of 'game' activities.

i) Provide an activity which is relevant and appropriate to the current topic of study.

ii) Choose an activity that is interesting, absorbing and also serves to motivate children; as discussed earlier, young learners have fewer negative attitudes towards education than older students and as teachers we are able to mould their expectations to a far greater extent.

iii) Choose an activity that is interesting, absorbing and motivating but not negligible in terms of language pay-off. In other words, make sure that its inclusion serves to successfully achieve your aims

iv) Match the level of expected language production with the children's conceptual development. However, allow scope for children to apply their intelligence and intuition within the activity.

v) Make certain that the rules of the 'game' are not beyond the conceptual development of the children; this will only lead to a lot of native tongue usage.

vi) Ensure that this activity is introduced at the correct time within the varied framework of other activities already chosen.

vii) Build in a good range of interaction and collaboration.

viii) Monitor closely what is actually happening during the activity rather than what you hope is happening.

ix) Choose games that can be changed and adapted to fit the needs of your particular students.

x) Small children like things that they can see, hold and manipulate.  Prepare game props which will add to their involvement and enjoyment.  Hammers, speak buttons, hats, helmets for Word Police, puppets, soft toys,  t.v. box, toy microphone, telephone, loud hailer, skittles, bat and ball, basketball hoop, etc etc etc.

xi) Try to choose activities that maximise whole class involvement.  Can all the children be kept productively busy at once, either by simultaneous play, or cheering, chanting, helping.

There is an integral problem with game-playing; it is usually very teacher centred.  The teacher chooses the game, chooses the cards, decides on the language, sets the rules, explains, initiates, referees, and keeps score.  An important consideration when planning games, is how to make them more student centred.  “Is there anything that I am doing that the children could be doing for themselves?Elt;/FONT>

Some game ideas for younger students:

All kinds of quizzes and drills can be dressed up by adding either an imagination or competition element.

Try these ideas for livening up a team quizz:

Basket Ball
Team players take turns to answer the quiz Qs.  A correct  answer earns a throw of a ball at the bucket goal to score. 20 points for a goal, 10 for a hit of the bucket.

Teacher Target
Same idea, but correct answers get to throw the ball at a bulls-eye target drawn on the whiteboard, and score the corresponding points for their team.  Put a caricature of teacher in the centre for 100 points.

For this variation have a row of plastic drink bottles, (each with a point value drawn on and a little sand inside), set up in a line for players to bowl for.

Correct answerers throw a dice to determine the score for their team.  Make a special dice with one side “Lose it allEand play “first to fiftyEfor added excitement.

On The Island
This is a good game to adapt for story-telling and imagination.

A mat in the centre of the room is the island, the floor around it is the water.  Children wait on the island while the Crocodile-teacher (preferably with a cardboard crocodile hat) prowls around in the water trying to reach over to catch a child to eat.  When the teacher calls “in the waterE the children rush into the water as the crocodile jumps on the island.  Vice versa when the teacher calls “On the island!Eamp;nbsp;  Any children caught by the croc must answer the quiz question to avoid being eaten.

Shark Attack
Similar thing.  The children swim around the room as the teacher sings or chants; “Little fish, little fish, swimming in the water.  Little fish, little fish doing what you ought to....Eamp;nbsp;  When the teacher calls “sharkEthe children jump up on the nearest table or chair island, some of which have been set up with quiz Qs or categories.

 - Games like this may seem a little silly, or time wasting, but in appropriately small doses, can be invaluable for breaking the ice with new, shy, or inhibited  language learners, and picking up enthusiasm after a low energy time.

Connect Four
Draw the connect four columns on the board, and write a question, language task or category above each column.  To have their counter drawn in their choice of column, teams must work together to answer the corresponding question.

Place chairs for half the students in a row facing the board. Children choose a partner.  One student sits on a chair, while their partner stands behind, holding their shoulders.  Practice “buzzingE the standers squeeze to make the sitters shout “buzz.Eamp;nbsp; Begin the quiz.  Only the standers may answer.  They must be the first to use their buzzer to answer.  Penalty for wrong answers and silences.  Swap places half way through the game.

Last Letter

The last letter of the word must be the first letter of the next word.

You will need a ball, but a screwed up piece of paper is fine.

The teacher throws the ball to one student and says a word, such as "dog".

The student must reply with a word starting with "G," such as "girl".

When answered, the ball is thrown back to the teacher and it is then thrown to the next student, who continues.

The sequence may then be (for example):

girl, look, king, go, octopus, student ... and so on.

You can have the students throwing to each other.

i.e., student A = "Cat," throw to student B = "Today," throw to student C = "Yes," etc.

Please be warned, you may have some fastball pitchers in the class!


Divide the class into even rows.

The last member of each row (at the back of the class) is taken out of the classroom. A "key" letter, word or sentence (depending on level) is given.

The students run back inside, and whisper the "key" to the next student in their row. It is whispered down through the row until the last member writes it on the board.

The first student to write it on the board correctly wins the point for their team/row.

Fast Words

The class is arranged into rows. The first person in each row is given a piece of chalk. The blackboard is divided into sections. No more than six teams.

The teacher calls a letter and the students must write as many words as they can beginning with that letter, in the allocated time. Their team-mates can call out hints, but be warned, this is very noisy.

Next, the second member gets the chalk and goes to the board and the teacher calls out a new letter.

The team with the most correct words is the winner.

Word Association

The teacher starts the game by saying a word, such as "Hotel".

For example:

Teacher: Hotel
Student A: Bed
Student B: Room
Student C: Service
Student D: Food
Student E: Restaurant
Student F: Chinese

As you can see, any association is ok.

If the student can't answer (5 second limit) he or she must stand up. The last student seated is the winner.

If the association is not obvious, the student is asked to explain the association.

Divide the class up into teams. Have one student on one team come up to the front of the class and give him/her a piece of paper with about 7 words on it centered around a theme.

For example, you could have 7 words that start with M, or several words that are parts of the body.

In two minutes (let the other teams watch the clock for you), the student with the paper must try to get one of the students on his/her team to say as many of the words on the list without using the word itself.

One point is scored for each word guessed.

The challenge here with a class full of students who all speak the same language is keeping them from giving hints in their native tongue. Usually, the other teams are vigilant about policing this for you, but when they are lazy, you'll have to lay down the law on your own.

The students think of three sentences, two are facts and one is a lie.

One by one, students introduce themselves and say their three sentences. The rest of the class has to guess which one is a lie.

I read a couple of ideas about tic tac toe and Bingo! Remember, bingo can be used for just about everything: colors, numbers, vocabulary, letters, verbs, occupations, etc.

Also, I play Wheel of Fortune with my elementary school kids that can read. A great way to review vocabulary and verb tenses that you are studying.

Also, if you can, buy a game of Scrabble (you remember that game you hated as a kid!) It's great.

We play it with our middle school kids and elementary. 5 kids once a week. They love it and their vocabulary is always increasing. You can even make a list of all the words made and then either have the students write sentences with them, or look them up in a dictionary, what ever.

I believe that students pick up the language with feelings, not grammar. Sometimes, we share ideas and have a good laugh together after reading a humourous story.

Not only to learn language, but also to have a better understanding about life. It's easier to solicit shy students to talk.

Want/Have/Need Tic-Tac-Toe

Time Required: About 30 minutes

Students' Level of English: Beginner Intermediate Advanced

Materials Needed: The attached handout


Practice using the words "want," "have," and "need"


Read through activity with students and explain that they are to fill in the answers to numbers 1 papers with a partner.

Ask partner A to guess partner B's answers by using the sentence patterns on the bottom of the handout. If they guess correctly, they get to mark "X" on the answer. If they guess incorrectly, they mark a "0" on the answer. The goal is to get a line of three "X".

When they are finished, then partner B tries to guess partner A's answers using the same sentence patterns.

Want/Have/Need Tic-Tac-Toe

Write your answers in any order in the boxes below:

Make sure that you only write nouns.

1. Something you want (*).

2. Something you have (*).

3. Something you need (*).

4. Something that you had(*), but don't have anymore.

5. Something you have (*), but don't have anymore.

6. Something you don't have (*) and don't want.

7. Something you have (*), but don't need.

8. Something you have (*), but seldom use.

9. Something you have (*) and often use.

Now exchange papers with your partner. Look at his/her sheet and guess what the objects are. Use the following:
e.g. Something you have(*), but seldom use.

You say: "I'll bet you have *a bicycle*, but seldom use it."

e.g. Something you have (*), but don't want anymore.

You say: "I'll bet you have *a toy doll*, but don't want it anymore."

If you guess correctly, put a big X in the square. If you guess wrong, put a big O in the square.
Try to get a line of three X's.



To get students to think about and practice adjective-noun combinations.


This game works well with all levels. Lower level students can make up simple sentences and higher level students more complex ones.
The Game

The purpose of this game is to give students the chance to practice adjective-noun combinations. Begin by giving them a male or female first name. They must then invent a sentence similar to the following:

Albert likes awful apes.

Betty likes baby boys.

Linda likes little limes.

Richard likes roaring racecars.

Wendy likes wiggling worms.

The game should move fast, so you should be prepared with a list of names to fire at your students.

You should go through the list ahead of time to make sure that you can think of matching adjective-noun combinations within the vocabulary range of your students.

It is sometimes helpful to have a large list of alphabetized adjectives xeroxed off and ready to hand out,

especially for lower level students.

Following are names for every letter of the alphabet to get you started:

Andy, Betty, Carmine, Daniel, Ed, Francis, Grover, Harry, Ingrid, John, Kris, Linda, Mark, Norman, Orville, Patty, Quentin, Rachel, Sam, Tom, Ursula, Victor, William, Xavier, Yolanda, Zelda.

Post-it note Game

Preparation: On several Post-It notes, write in large letters a single word of recently learned vocabulary.

The activity is easiest with simple nouns, though more advanced students can play it with any vocabulary.

Method: Students are put into groups of 3 or 4; 1 student is the 'subject' and sits facing the others.

Place a Post-It note on the forehead of the subject who then 'becomes' that item of vocabulary but, not being able to see the note, does not know what they are.

To find out they must ask the other students in the group who can answer with reasonably helpful replies.

The activity is best played with a class who know each other well.

The teacher should be responsible for distributing the items of vocabulary as sometimes discretion should be shown in assigning vocabulary to students.

It is a fun activity ideal for a few minutes at the end of a lesson.

This is for teaching Mr and Ms, He, She , likes, doesn't like and where do you live?...

It is best for early beginners usually 12 to 13 year old junior high school.

Students interview their classmates. Students have been taught to answer " I like .........." , " I don't like ........ " and "I live in .............."

It sounds a bit unnatural, but it practises the vocabulary they should know,( and they like it! )

Interview Game ( Part One )

Interview your classmates and fill in the blanks. (You may need to ask their name first! )

* = sport, animal, food, music

(Q) Excuse me Mr/Ms............................, what * you like?

OK, what *......................... don't you like?
I see, where do you live?

Thank you.

(Q) Excuse me Mr/Ms............................, what *...................... do you like?

OK, what * .........................don't you like?
I see, where do you live?

Thank you

(Q) Excuse me Mr/Ms............................, what * .................... do you like?

OK, what *......................... don't you like?
I see, where do you live?

Thank you.


Boy/Boy 1 point, Girl/Girl 1 point, Boy/Girl 2 points, Girl/Boy2 points Student/ Teacher 3 points

Your Score........................./ 7

Part Two

Complete these sentences, then stand up and tell the class !

Mr/Ms............................likes..........................He/She doesn't like ................................and He/She lives in ......................................!

Mr/Ms............................likes..........................He/She doesn't like ................................and He/She lives in ......................................!

Chapter 14
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